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Sour Lips – Ovalhouse, London

Writer: Omar El-Khairy

Director: Carissa Hope Lynch

Reviewer: Lizzie Kirkwood

[rating:3]

Sour Lips tells the true story of Amina Arraf, the blogger known as ‘A Gay Girl In Damascas’. The blog claimed to document the life of Amina Abdallah Arraf al-Omari, a half-Syrian, half-American lesbian living in Damascus. The blog mainly followed her personal life and relationships, but she also criticized President Bashar al-Assad and spoke about her involvement in the growing anti-government protests.

After Amina was purportedly kidnapped and a worldwide campaign was launched to find and free her, the blog was revealed to be a hoax, set up by Tom MacMaster, an American man studying in Scotland.

Sour Lips is part of Ovalhouse’s ‘counter-culture’ programme, which celebrates Ovalhouse reaching its 50th year. Beginning with Amina’s [Lara Sawalha] supposed kidnapping and travelling back and forward in time to tell her story, the play is a fictional account of the blog and the man behind it.

Ambitious in style and subject matter, the production uses an ambitious combination of narration, physical theatre and scenes depicting snippets of Amina’s life to tell the story. The performances are all strong and film, clever lighting design and staging in the round are used to good effect.

At times, the consistently ardent tone of the piece becomes exhausting and the forcefully earnest nature of the piece means it lacks any bite or wit. This lack of humour means the piece at times feels like a great deposit of information and the story the play is trying runs the risk of getting lost behind highly theatrical staging.

Human elements of the story feel undercooked and the show lacks any kind of emotional punch, save for Tom MacMaster [Simon Darwen]’s confession speech that concludes the piece. One of the most moving moments of the production is the use of a clip from Newsnight in which Jeremy Paxman interviews the woman whose photo was used for the blog without her consent.

Amina’s blog gained worldwide notoriety because of the empathy it was able to drum up. Unfortunately, this production makes such emotional connection hard to forge.

Runs until 16th February

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