Theatre Review: Heart, Unity Theatre, Liverpool

Image Source: Unity Theatre

Show: Heart

Location: Unity Theatre, Liverpool

Date: Thursday November 4, 2021

Time: 19.30

Running Time: 60 minutes

Age Rating: 12+

Performers: Jade Anouka

Writer: Jade Anouka

Our latest theatre review is for Heart at Liverpool’s Unity Theatre. So, let’s take a look at Heart!

Background

Since its foundation in 2004, arts & social justice organisation Homotopia has sought to utilise creative industries to explore an array of LGBT+ issues in the Liverpool city region and beyond. As part of this year’s Homotopia festival, actor Jade Anouka took to the stage at the Unity Theatre to perform a stripped-back reading of her rousing, autobiographical play ‘Heart’.

Synopsis

“This is perhaps a story for all the misfits; all those who have ever felt other.” Anouka’s preface to her hour-long tale of love, heartbreak and self-acceptance is one which appears to resonate quite profoundly with her captive audience at the Unity.

The play begins with 24-year-old Anouka in the initial throes of marital bliss. She’s the first of her friends to achieve the coveted feat of securing a ‘society-approved and family-enthused’ life. Despite the outward perception of their perfect coupling, our heroine quickly finds that her husband’s inner turmoil is driving an insurmountable wedge between them.

When the marriage eventually collapses, Anouka finds herself battling her own demons as she seeks to renew her quest in the pursuit of Mr Right.

However, when the actor unexpectedly falls in love with a woman, she faces a whole new array of challenges.

The process of coming out to her devout Catholic mother, the potential risks of being openly queer in a condemnatory society, and her own inner conflict are just some of the obstacles that Anouka must navigate in her journey to become her most authentic self.

This is a brave and compelling exploration of a woman’s personal crusade for self-affirmation and societal acceptance.

Although Anouka is a black woman, a fact which she herself describes as ‘political enough’, this is a story with themes that are not exclusive to any one particular community.

Rather, the play is poignant, powerful and provocative, raising issues which encompass us all.

Analysis

The prospect of having to single-handedly hold the attention of an entire audience for 60 minutes must be daunting. To do so without the accompaniment of any bells and whistles, just you, a script and a spotlight, must pose a still more ominous challenge.

However, Jade Anouka makes it look easy.

She is, first and foremost, an exquisite storyteller. For the duration of the piece, she engages the audience with her expressive vocal delivery, quick-wittedness, and disarming candour.

Dressed in all black, the pregnant actor stays seated throughout the reading, although this only serves to enhance the intensity and dynamism of her words.

The narrative is presented through poetry, and although there is a combination of free verse and rhyme, Anouka’s fluid delivery ensures that there is no stiltedness.

Whilst much of the subject matter is serious, the piece is also incredibly uplifting, and there are plenty of laughs. The actor’s amusing impressions of her Caribbean parents were particularly well-received by the Unity audience.

The play is interspersed with sound effects and music to highlight certain key moments, and the variation in lighting design throughout also aided the delivery of the text.

There is the occasional use of strong language which means that the show isn’t recommended for children below the age of 12.

That being said, ‘Heart’ is an incredibly important piece of theatre which, I feel, can teach us all valuable lessons and thus should be seen by everyone.

Summary

This is an incredibly powerful play with a significance that is not diminished by the low-key production. Anouka has brilliantly crafted a show which is both thought-provoking and empowering and, should ‘Heart’ return to Liverpool again, I could not recommend it highly enough.

Notes

Target Audience: 12+

Content: Strong Language, Sexual References, Loud music

Recommendation?: Yes

Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding

Further Links

This year’s Homotopia Festival runs until Sunday November 14. For more information, click here.

For more information about Jade Anouka, click here.

Did you see Heart? Let us know by leaving a comment below!