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Theatre Review: Identity Crisis @ Ovalhouse


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Identity Crisis is an engaging and honest piece of theatre about what makes people who they are – their achievements, their dreams, and their surroundings.

The one women show was written and performed by Phina Orucha, who used the opportunity to examine her own observations on what others have made of her black identity.

She starts by speaking about her niece, 19-years-old and whose life was taken by a brain aneurysm – here, she speaks rather frankly and poetically about the horror the situation, the loss of one she loved, and the strange reality of death. 

She then follows on to talk about herself, 19-years-old and trying to break free of the dark restraints of her Liverpool life to enter the world of modelling. She speaks about each shoot, about each step she took to break through – about the way that people would slap afro wigs on her because her hair was too short, about the way she was always poised in one specific way in front of the camera – a “Nuban beauty”.

It was refreshing to hear of these experiences that you know must happen from the perspective of the one it has happened to – and especially when she’s so completely bared about her inner insecurities that this world brought to her. The desperation to do anything to get out. The pressures of having to keep relevant in a world that is on the constant lookout for the next best thing. The worry of not being good enough.

Whilst she plays herself, Phina always plays the roles of many people in her own life, crossing boundaries of age, gender and race to embody them for the audience. There is a man in his 70s, a shadowy Ed-Ex who speaks with little understanding of the world and only the numbers on the page. An unhappily married woman, who drinks too much and uses funerals as a place of freedom.

A childhood friend who helped Phina get started but slipped through the cracks and fell into addiction. An Italian reserve footballer in LA who poises for fake pictures to convince those back in Italy that he is happy and successful. A West Indian Rasta who speaks on life and Bob Marley and the kinds of stereotypes that follow him around.

Her mother, fresh off the boat from Nigeria, who is outspoken and brash and no doubt helped form Phina into the strong women she is on that stage.

The shifts between one character and the next are almost instantaneous – smooth in their transitions and demonstrates Phina’s brilliant acting skills.

A production on such a small stage demands intimacy and control of the room. Phina had both of those things in droves, which made for a show that was impressively immersive and entertaining to watch.

For more information on the show, check out the Ovalhouse Theatre website.

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