Monday, 16 November 2009

Contradictions - Contact Theatre, Manchester

Creators: Sharpening Sawds
Reviewer: Clare Howdon

‘Contradictions’ by Sharpening Sawds Hip Hop Collective is a one-man show which explores the many paradoxes in British society and takes a brutal and frank look at prejudice and bigotry. Manchester’s infamous number 42 bus becomes a microcosm of society and introduces us to a myriad of contrasting characters (7 in total)

‘Contradictions’ is undeniably an autobiographical piece and performer Ali Gadema bravely explores his own past intolerances, and on some levels this works as a theatrical questioning of the regional social order in which we live.

Gadema is an engaging and engaged performer and his versatility skills and on-stage presence certainly brings the juxta-posed characters to life. His assured and confident connection with the audience is also effective and he is undoubtedly a story-teller of some talent. Like with any show of this ilk, certain characters are more convincing than others. The bus driver is particularly successful and the lead character creates some moments of complexity and tragedy which goes some way to explain his rather abrupt suicide at the end of the play. Additionally the fleeting yet strong homo-erotic subtext of one gang member when beating a young gay man on Canal Street is delivered with subtlety.

Sharpening Sawds also make full use of a multi – functional set design and scene and character changes are swift, keeping the piece well paced. The use of some beautiful poetry, lyricism and beat-boxing along with endearing child-like shadow puppetry and multi-media effects also keeps this 50 minute performance varied and lightning fast.

However, although the presentation of this piece is successful and accessible, the actual content and message of Gadema’s personal story is more questionable and inconsistent. Whilst Gadema certainly makes his audience laugh through his larger than life characters and scenario’s, more time needed to be dedicated to what the creators wanted their audience to take away from this piece, as the message became a little muddled and over-faced as more and more layers were added. There is certainly potential in ‘Contradictions’ but the prejudices raised need to be explored and broken down rather than merely addressed, in order to make this a truly didactic piece of theatre.
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