Sarai by Paul Anthony Morris – review
Arcola Theatre

Published: Monday, October 26, 2015 6:29 AM | Review by: Mike Scott-Harding | Afridiziak Star Rating:
Sarai by Paul Anthony Morris Sarai by Paul Anthony Morris

If you like your theatre to bind together many different artistic disciplines, I would recommend this production.

This production tells the story of Sarai (see listing) - the ‘mother of Israel’ (as told in The Bible) – and her journey to fulfill a prophecy and ‘found a nation’.


The piece starts off with four live musicians playing over a ‘droned’ music soundtrack. Slowly, the music builds in intensity as ‘Sarai’ arrives on the stage with her baggage – quite literally – in tow.


Through gritted teeth, she informs us of the burdens she is weighted down with:

  1. God’s prophecy - “Remove yourself from your father’s house to a land that I will show you and I will give you a child and make you a great nation”.

  2. Her own inability to have children.

So, after a loud and painful ‘phantom birth’, we hear the story of how she and Abraham (her husband) have travelled through deserts, survived famines, disease, civil- war, and enslavement in Egypt, before – finally – seeing the prophecy fulfilled, as she gives birth to her child, ‘ Isaac’.


Sarai by Paul Anthony Morris Sarai by Paul Anthony Morris

The performance of ‘Sarai’ - by Karlina Grace-Paseda - is remarkable in its scope.


The performance of ‘Sarai’ - by Karlina Grace-Paseda - is remarkable in its scope. She is both our narrator, and our physical guide. Aided by Shane Shambhu’s choreography, she dances, mimes, builds part of the set and, at one stage – with the aid of a torch - acts as lighting-director during a black-out. She is rage-ful, powerful, vengeful, playful, sorrowful, and - as a result of countless crises (both real and imagined) – pitiful.


Grace-Paseda is to be commended for holding her focus for one-and-a-half hours of intense physical, cerebral, and visceral theatre. However, it must be said, she does not hold our attention completely. At times, the transitions from movement to text (and back) appear a little too stilted; perhaps they will smooth-out in time. This is further emphasised by the seamless work done by the ‘supporting cast’ of musicians, lighting, and sound.


Sarai by Paul Anthony Morris Sarai by Paul Anthony Morris

It’s rare that live musicians work so well in a theatre production.

So good was the musical interplay - between Byron Wallen’s trumpet and flute, Louai Alhenawi’s Arabic flute and percussion, Nao Masuda’s Japanese drums and harp, and Jenny Adejayan’s cello – that I was tempted to applaud each solo, or musical section, as if it were a jazz concert, or a classical recital. Indeed, the score by Wallen (utilising Jazz, Middle Eastern, and Classical stylings) was worth the price of admission alone. Its performance by the four musicians – allied with Prema Mehta’s lighting design and Paul Anthony-Morris’ intelligent direction – tended to overshadow what should be – and may yet become – a tour-de-force central performance.


This piece is about a journey - a ‘flight of fancy’, if you will. If you like your theatre to bind together many different artistic disciplines, then I would recommend this production which – much like its Biblical origins – can only grow in the telling.



Info: Sarai is at the Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, London E8 3DL until November 7, 2015 | see listing | book tickets




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