A performed reading
missfit productions Barons Court Theatre
Lennie Varvarides believes that dyslexics have a 'different creative approach to most people', and, according to The Arts Dyslexia Trust, this is due to 'above average visual-spatial cognitive ability'. Right. But whatever this might translate as in laymen's terms, there is certainly a new approach bubbling away within Varvarides's concept-driven theatre piece AWK-WORD.
Premiering in rehearsed reading, as part of the DYS(the)LEXI festival - a celebration of dyslexic artists, poets, filmmakers and playwrights - AWK-WORD is a journey through the seduction and power of the written word, born out through a modern day love triangle.
Young Muslim Sal (Ash Sohoye), on the brink of an arranged marriage to the beautiful but naïve Raz (Nisha Anil), embarks on an affair with sultry vixen Alex (Louise Morrel) whom he meets in a local bar. The affair is initiated, and subsequently driven, by a series of simple but tantalising word games, wherein each participant writes and scatters phrases (truths, chat-up lines, desires) to be read by their opponent/partner. The intimate vaults of the Barons Court Theatre provided the perfect voyeuristic setting for the piece, which constantly reinforced the importance of written words in colloquial life, through text message flirtation, postcards, and of course Valentines day.
In the post-show Q&A, Varvarides (who comes from a visual arts background), revealed that the idea behind the word games emerged out of a single sketch - and that the words and phrases were not only composed by the actors in rehearsal but picked up and recited at random in each performance. Challenging the traditional notions of narrative, the games scenes in AWK-WORD create a liminal world where dialogue is paradoxically pre-destined but totally haphazard, and a different story can and will emerge in each performance.
According to Varvarides this process mirrors the methods many dyslexics adopt when creating art. She doesn't see plays in linear terms, and creates her own work through moulding snippets and ideas together until they evolve into a story. In an ideal production of her play, more space would be given to develop this, with projections of the notes and text messages appearing as the actors create them.
Handing the reins over to chance led to a sense of danger and excitement in these scenes, which was somewhat compromised by embedding them into a conventional storyline. Varvarides is attempting a difficult juggling act between plain old dramatic action and concept theatre, and at times the balance between the two was sometimes, a little well, awkward.
Nevertheless with a strong and dedicated cast, the play, which is only at the first draft stage, will no doubt develop into a bold and original piece, and if Lennie Varvaridies can put as much trust in her own dramatic ideas as in her brilliantly conceived festival then AWK-WORD will succeed in celebrating a different creative approach to theatre.
Reviewer: Lucy Ribchester