Two actors on stage describe their characters as if the direction in the playtext is part of the script. It is the first of many quirks in Aleshea Harris' dark revenge comedy Is God Is.
Twin sisters Racine (Tamara Lawrence) and Anaia (Adelayo Adedayo) receive a letter from their mother (Cecilia Noble), whom they thought was dead.
When they visit her, she tells them her dying wish is that she is avenged for a horrific past crime, and so the two set off from the "Dirty South" to California armed with just a name and a determination to carry out their mother's deadly wishes.
Dressed differently by their mother as young children so she could tell them apart, Racine is the natural leader, often protecting her more 'emotional' sister Anaia. But their mission proves revealing both about their family, their mother's past and themselves.
The brutality that fuels and defines the narrative is played out against incongruous sets of candy-coloured houses, cartoon-like props and sound effects. There are backdrops that would look at home in a spaghetti western and signs in different styles that announce each scene.
It is a style and tone that reminded me of some of my favourite film writers and directors; the cookie-ness and quirk of Wes Anderson mixed with the grim humour of Jordan Peele and Martin McDonagh.
The twin's journey of revenge gets darker and more cartoon-like, yet Harris still manages to inject a moment of shockingly grim reality which made the audience gasp.
It carries with it a powerful message, one which, in the context of the style and tone of the piece, shouldn't radiate as strongly. But that is the cleverness of the play, the direction and the performances.
Harris script is revealing as the opening lines demonstrate. If you buy the playtext/programme, you'll see directions are peppered throughout with changes in font size and words and letters spaced out.
But it wouldn't work without the perfect pitch and timing of the actors, particularly their skill in elevating the humour:
So. How you been?
O, you know. Dyin'.
Is God Is involves a mixture of elements that shouldn't all work together but do, and I thought it was superb.
It's 90 minutes long without an interval, and I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
For more details and tickets, head to the Royal Court's website.
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