Portrait by Racheal Ofori - review

Published: Monday, September 28, 2015 1:48 AM | Review by: Gillian Fisher |
Portrait by Racheal Ofori - Photo Credit Tom Medwell Portrait by Racheal Ofori - Photo Credit Tom Medwell

In a series of side-splitting monologues, Ofori presents the female experience as seen through Candice’s eyes.


Racheal Ofori’s (read interview) debut show is a shrewd exposition of 21st century gender roles and the dividing force of race in British society. Framed as a school mentoring session, our protagonist Candice sits disapprovingly in a swivel chair. At 18 she is about to graduate secondary school and join the daunting world of adulthood. But this young Londoner has a few misgivings. For all her mentor’s prattle about the wealth of opportunities available, Candice remains sceptical. In a series of side-splitting monologues, Ofori presents the female experience as seen through Candice’s eyes. There are many avenues our heroine could take; princess, scholar, businesswoman, mother. But in a supposedly equalitarian society, can Candice pave her own way?


Ofori’s solo show is wonderfully diverse, both thematically and structurally. Our gobby, yet astute protagonist touches upon many incongruous aspects of modern existence. Subjects such as social media, immigration, parental pressures, capitalism and many more are all put to rights by the savvy teen. Her statement is then reinforced by a lyrical monologue from a corresponding character. These range from sassy, bible-belt preachers to Oxbridge wannabes. Ofori slips seamlessly between these different roles, transforming with the addition of simple props such as specs and tambourines. Her caricatures of womanhood speak their truths in beautifully crafted, rhyming verse. Ofori’s grasp of language is superb, skilfully infusing candid expression with rhetoric. This is contrasted with Candice’s colloquial language, littered with “Innit”s and “D’ya get me?”s. Her sage one-liners such as “I know money doesn’t buy happiness, but I’d rather cry in a Porsche than at a bus stop” are phenomenal. One can’t help but relate to the teen’s constant dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs. Her censures are delivered with finger wags and slow head shakes by a pouting Candice.


Portrait by Racheal Ofori - Photo Credit Tom Medwell Portrait by Racheal Ofori - Photo Credit Tom Medwell

Ofori has painted a vivid picture in her energetic debut show. The more we gaze upon Candice’s portrait, the more we see our own selves in the frame.


Humour is central to this show, and is enhanced by the skilled direction of Kate Hewitt. Her measured approach allows for fantastic comedy timing. As well as poetry and monologue, Ofori uses dance to great effect in this piece. In a darkened nightclub we meet a booty shaking seductress who uses her sexuality as a weapon. We also meet a Ghanaian student who shows off her traditional Ashanti moves. This character starkly highlights the difference between fantasy and reality. She boards a plane for London dreaming of an illustrious career and tea with the Queen. She ends in Peckham being dubbed ‘fresh’ by her college classmates. Contrast and double standards are recurrent themes in this show. A London girl dabbling with online dating reveals the gap between our virtual and physical personas. A comfort eating career girl lambasts about the pressure to conform to precise standards of beauty.


With plenty of pop-culture references, witty bon mots and sultry dancing this piece certainly entertains. It also gives a poignant insight into the expectations of young women today. Ofori has painted a vivid picture in her energetic debut show. The more we gaze upon Candice’s portrait, the more we see our own selves in the frame.


Info: To find out more about this production or to book tickets on the upcoming tour please visit Fuel Theate’s website. | Portrait is part of the Calm Down, Dear Festival at Camden People’s Theatre, 22-26 September, 2015 | Book tickets



Related links

Racheal Ofori - interview




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