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I Stand Corrected, Ovalhouse Theatre

Created and performed by Mojisola Adebayo and Mamela Nyamza

Pros: An unforgettable love story beautifully told through music, dance, storytelling and stand-up.

Cons: There are no cons. This is a must-see.

Our Verdict: A brave and beautiful theatrical triumph starring two phenomenally talented young women. This is theatre as it should be.

Courtesy of the Ovalhouse

Gay rights remain a very serious and contentious issue throughout most of Africa today. It is estimated that approximately thirty-eight African countries continue to outlaw LGBT activity with many states enforcing strict punishments to offenders, including the death penalty. Although this is considered a serious breach of human rights throughout much of the West, many African leaders claim that supporting gay rights is against their cultural and religious values.

I Stand Corrected at the increasingly brilliant Ovalhouse opens with a sparse set comprising of wooden hut walls, sandy flooring and a lonely wedding dress blowing softly in the breeze. Sharp sunlight and thick rising dust suggests a stifling and oppressive atmosphere. Mamela Nyamza, who plays Zodwa, lies upturned in a rubbish bin to the far right of the stage. Nyamza begins the show with a mixture of physical theatre and dance, painting a picture through movement of her life as a beautiful, young African woman. This section alone is incredibly powerful both in the high standard of Mamela’s talents and the multiple messages she conveys to her audience. At one point she uses her finger as a replacement penis which points aggressively at the audience telling them what they must be and how they must behave. As she struggles wildly to break free from the dustbin, I could feel her unbearable claustrophobia and a terrifying sense of being trapped forever. Zodwa searches through a refuse sack, sorting through various types of rubbish from broken CDs to used condoms. She thumbs through a dog-eared magazine brimming with images of how society believes she should look. She mimics all the smiling, elegant models with their bright lipsticks and matching handbags. Although much of the themes targeted in this piece are very serious issues, Nyamza manages to bring terrific humour to her performance and proves to be a very gifted comedienne.

Her co-star Mojisola Adebayo (Donna/Charlie) also incorporates a whole host of performance genres into her portrayal of Zodwa’s partner, including physical theatre, singing, dance, stand-up and storytelling. Her comedy routine is particularly poignant as she allows the more serious issues of the play to seep through a number of original jokes all delivered with the stereotypical swagger of a TV stand-up. Adebayo is utterly compelling in her role and the many witty interactions with her enraptured audience suggest a sharply intelligent performer with a natural flair for comedy. It is through the darker, more serious parts of the show, however, where she really shines and her devastating portrayal of a smart, capable woman surrounded by violent prejudice ignites a feeling of compassionate frustration in the audience, keeping us firmly on her side.

This play provides so much more than a timely political statement. Although it is very hard-hitting in its approach to gay rights, it is first and foremost a beautiful and compelling love story – one which gives the likes of Wuthering Heights or Romeo and Juliet a serious run for their money. The chemistry between these two women is incredibly powerful and it is through the beauty and truth of their relationship that the important political element finds its real strength of argument. All of this teamed with excellent sound design, great lighting, terrific stage design and clever use of costume makes this a flawless production.

It is probably worth mentioning that this is the first show I’ve seen all year to receive a thunderous standing ovation from a teary-eyed audience. Before I stepped into the Ovalhouse, I expected to leave the show shaking my fists at homophobia but I got so much more than I could have imagined. This is powerful stuff. Miss it and miss out.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

I Stand Corrected runs at the Ovalhouse Theatre until 8th December 2012.
Box Office: 020 7582 7680 or book online at http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/detail/i-stand-corrected

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