Writer and Director: Emily Aboud
Any show that opens with a shot of vodka from a Mooncup is set to keep you on your toes. Splintered is high-energy, playful politics and carnival revelry. It’s an education and a party all at once.
Coming to Soho Upstairs after its award-winning streak, Emily Aboud’s cabaret explores queer Caribbean identities and the complexities of living in a culture that rejects your true self. Aboud interrogates the contradiction in Carnival: the ultimate celebration of freedom and togetherness, yet homophobia still being endemic in Caribbean culture. Particularly because “carnival is gay as shit!” The tales we hear are lived experiences. Aboud interviewed queer womxn from Trinidad and Tobago and brought their stories to stage.
A succession of acts, woven with some constant narrative threads, are performed by a trio who are endearing and powerful. Central recurrent themes include falling in love with your straight best friend and the difficulties of coming out to your mother. The relationship between Alice Vilanculo, Melissa Saint and Chante Faucher is infectious. They draw the audience into their free-spirited celebration of queer culture. Loving who you want to love is the most liberating thing in the world, they tell us.
The ingenuity of Aboud’s writing is in its ability to be silly and serious in the same lines. A highlight is the combination of religion, rap and dancehall to explore the Colonial origins of homophobia in the Caribbean and how they still display today. Another is the riotous reimagining of Chicago’s ‘Cell Block Tango.’ Admittedly, some of the transitions could be smoother. Plus, the flow is disrupted in moments when a scene simply narrates or explains history without any action. As a whole though, Splintered is a wide spanning and insightful production that fills Soho Upstairs to the brim with pride.
Along with constant laughter are reminders that Carnival is political. Celebrating queerness is a political act. A voiceover of a womxn living in hiding in Trinidad and Tobago closes the show and leaves us with this reality as a final note.
Runs until 26 February 2022