Friday 26 July 2019

Make Me A Houri review

In Islamic religion, Muslim men who die as "believers" are rewarded with 72 beautiful perpetual virgins as wives in heaven. These women are known as houris. In Emina Ashman's Make Me A Houri, two women who meet in the afterlife begin to question and confront how religion and society view and use their bodies and their spirits. 

Ashman creates some moving poetry with her story of these two women as they come to grapple with their own desire and the expectations placed upon them. Regardless how confronting the topics discussed are, through her considered and open dialogue, she allows the audience to lower their guard and be drawn into what is transpiring. Where this story comes up short is that the characters are largely unchanged throughout it. There is no build up to anything climatic or revelatory and the women remain static as they recall personal experiences that lead into deeper philosophical analysis.

Nisha Joseph has a wonderful presence on stage delivering great characterisation with a nuanced representation of Safia. She brings her natural flair for comedy and sincerity to the forefront of her performance. Ashman, who also stars in Make Me A Houri, finds a grace and innocence with her portrayal of Asmara, a woman who needs to choose if she will become a houri or not. 

Lara Week's set design which has the floor covered in leaves, hints towards a hereafter without pain and suffering but the overturned fridge and cupboard disrupt this notion, and the idea that something is not quite right starts to brew. Together with Sidney Millar's mesmerising sound design and composition, there is a constant balancing act of depicting this paradise while presenting the cracks of said paradise. 

Make Me A Houri might be gentle in its approach, but it opens important conversations - as well as hearing from women whose voices are not often presented - on the sexism they face daily and attempts by society to control and monitor their bodies. However, in order to become an accomplished piece of theatre, it requires some structural changes to the narrative and the energy of the characters need to be more distinct.

Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St. Carlton. 
Season: until 4 August | Wed & Fri 8:30pm. Thur & Sat - Sun 6:30pm 
Tickets: $30 Full | $20 Conc 
Bookings: La Mama Theatre

Image Credit: Keith Costelo 

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