We round up the reviews for Rabiah Hussain’s play, performing at the Royal Court Theatre until the 26th August.

(c)Johan Persson

WhatsOnStage: *** “The performances by the cast of five – Issam Al Ghussain, Kosar Ali, Simon Manyonda, Sirine Saba and Yusra Warsama – playing multiple characters who are shrugged off after they’ve had their moment, all give fluent performances and acquit themselves well with the satirical elements.”

The Guardian: *** “As a play, it is boldly, excitingly experimental – the Whitehall scenes happen behind Rosanna Vize’s glass-box set design, there is a fast to-and-fro of WhatsApp messages being read aloud that lend satirical comedy and Xana’s rumbling compositions bring drama. But ultimately the play’s parts feel too scattered, abstract and fleeting. There is a deliberate sense of ellipsis – key words missing, scenes that are non-chronological and too brief – which render the arguments on language either too obvious or too gnomic.”

Evening Standard: **** “But Hussain, director Nimmo Ismail and the cast are mostly hugely adroit at providing quick hits of insight and character. The acting is uniformly strong, but I particularly liked Simon Manyonda’s effortless portrayal of a series of awkward nerds, and the conspiratorial ability of Kosar Ali – supporting star of the 2019 indie film Rocks, and still only 19 – to invite you into her performance.”

Time Out: *** “Director Nimmo Ismail nails the tone here, while the hardworking five-strong cast wring much humour from these surreal scenarios. Still, specificity is a central ingredient of comedy, making their task here harder: the vagueness and circularity of the language is the point, but sometimes it’s nonetheless overwhelming. A final, more naturalistic scene doesn’t quite glue this play’s disparate parts together. But there’s so much about this play that’ll stick in your throat: a reminder that words can wound, however bland they might sound.”

Everything Theatre: *** “At a crisp 80 minutes this is an enjoyable evening, amusing, witty and thought provoking, demonstrating the power of language and what effect it can have.”

Broadway World: *** “That words have power is a long-held truism that this production pushes home time and time again, albeit while showcasing some fine acting. Despite its short running time of 80 minutes and the hit-and-run nature of the sketches, the script rarely hits home with the resonance of, for example, Lenny Bruce’s skits on taboo words and concepts or George Carlin and his infamous “seven dirty words”. Hussain’s splatter gun approach to obvious societal evils makes some intriguing points but misses more than it hits, especially in the early parts of Word-Play.”

Rev Stan: **** “Word-Play punches at appropriation, prejudice, and the distortion of meaning. It highlights how meaning can be ascribed through the lens of who uses or hears the word. And how language is rich, fluid and powerful.”

The Stage: *** “Thoughtful, if sometimes frustratingly opaque, play about the impact of the language we use”

London Box Office: **** “The segments are by turns tense, energised, subtly observed, aggressive, gently reflective, expletive-strewn, frustrating, plain funny, and nearly always capable of eliciting nods of agreement and disapproving shakes of the head from the thoroughly engaged audience members.”

British Theatre Guide: “There is a lot packed into a straight-through 80 minutes, and what could be fragmentary is given an overall unity. In her introduction to the text, dramatist Hussain has described how a brain tumour and the subsequent operation caused a period of aphasia which affect the ability to read, write, speak or understand words and she lost her feeling for words. Her play emphasises how understanding hinges upon them and how meaning can be manipulated and distorted.”

To book tickets visit: https://royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/word-play/


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