Summerhall – Red Lecture Theatre
Watching OommoO – an acronym for “one of many, many of one” – reminded me of being in a playgroup, when one of the children has a new fancy toy but doesn’t want to share it with anyone. The other kids then look at it from a distance, trying to disguise their curiosity as they know full well that they won’t be invited to play with it.
To create this performance, creator Lula Mebrahtu uses high-tech MiMu gloves, which respond to different movements of the fingers, hands and arms to generate sound. Lula also uses a head-worn microphone with a deliberate echoing effect and a stick mic for some sections of the show. It is a technology overload that, in the intimate space of the Red Lecture Theatre at Summerhall, causes distraction instead of creating pathos. Her words are hard to hear and the functioning of it all attracts more curiosity than the performance itself. It’s as if the show had been prompted by the desire to test the gloves, for which Mebrahtu has given a YouTube testimonial.
The creative’s alter-ego, Lula Berhane, is a first-generation immigrant of Habesha (Eritrean and Ethiopian) heritage, navigating the challenges of a dual cultural background. Songs and standalone pieces of storytelling recount deeply personal episodes of preserving the family memory whilst fitting into British society. It is a scrapbook of ideas that don’t necessarily fit in with each other. For instance, there is a song about her father’s dementia and a scene that involves a “white Karen” whose remarks about Lula’s hair lead to a fight outside a club – I question whether the repeated reference to anyone’s skin colour, regardless of which, is ever acceptable in this day and age.
The sad irony of this show is that it wants to focus on displaced people and integration but can’t quite include its audience. For this reason, it is followed by a lengthy explanation of the artist’s intentions – and those for the following modules she’s planning to release. Mebrahtu’s performance has a big heart and plenty of stories to share, but its component parts aren’t strong enough and fail to connect. The concept is timely, but the execution hasn’t fully hatched yet.
Created and Produced by: Lula Mebrahtu
OommoO plays at EdFringe 2023 until 27 August, 4:15pm at Summerhall. Further information and bookings here.