Writer: Aleshea Harris
Director: Ola Ince
Twins. Unstoppable ones. Twins who were once babies giggling like “they got the sun in their mouth” and are now women hell-bent on vengeance. And who the audience root for throughout Aleshea Harris’s epic play Is God Is, even when they are smearing the stage with innocent blood.
Racine (Tamara Lawrance) and Anaia (Adelayo Adedayo) take centre stage in a blazing inferno. They start as hey mean to go on, reclaiming their power in a world intent on stomping them down. They both have scars. Racine’s you can barely see, but Anaia is covered in them, “trapped in a prison of sweetness. Girl so ugly don’t get to be mean.” The humour is as slick and dark throughout.
After growing up in care, the twins receive a surprise letter from their mama who they believed to be dead. And She (Cecelia Noble) – or God as the girls call her because she made them, didn’t she? – almost is, lying in a care home disfigured and wheezing, scarred twice as much as the twins. She spins her tale; their father set fire to her and both of them eighteen years earlier. She’s dying wish is for revenge. To be specific, “kill your daddy, dead, dead, dead. Kill his spirit, then the body. Like he did me.” So the twins travel from the Dirty South to the lovely yellow house on the hill with teal shutters, destroying everything in their path.
Harris blends ancient tragedy, Spaghetti Western, pop culture and modern drama in her sensational play. Plot, pace, use of scene titles and music are cinematic – it is impossible not to align it with Tarantino’s revenge thriller Kill Bill. But there is no doubt that Is God Is belongs on stage and that Harris has a distinct voice. Her writing is poetic, hilarious and unobtrusively social and political. The characters’ use of third person introductions charms the room, immediately pulling us close. The complexities of emotion the play conjures leaves huge questions to be considered. Is violence ever justified? Is vengeance ever satisfactory? Can the luck of our situations make us guilty of other people’s strife? Take Angie (Vivienne Acheampong) as an example; Harris sets her up to be suffering and pitied, yet when Racine smashes her face in with a rock in a sock, it feels reasonable, part of their mission. The twins are our heroes. It’s hard to care who dies unless it’s one of them.
The Royal Court’s production elevates Harris’s writing in every way possible. Chloe Lamford’s set design is ingenious. The props and set are detailed, amusing and move with ease. The entire cast is enthralling. Noble’s raspy storytelling holds the audience in a suspense you wouldn’t think possible when strapped to a bed. Lawrance and Adedayo perform with charisma, boldness and nuance, and capture the subtly shifting power dynamics between the twins. And Ola Ince’s direction is stunning. The production’s focus on visual impact is thrilling, with shadowed lighting, blazing fires and sensationalised but stylish violence.
There is too much to say, praise, unpick… the only solution is to go and see Is God Is for yourself.
Runs until 23 October 2021