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REVIEW | LINES at the Tanya Moiseiwitsch Playhouse, Sheffield

Disclaimer: AD | Ticket was gifted in exchange for an honest review

CW:/TW LINES Contains the following themes: Colonialism, Violence, Death, Pregnancy, Abortion, Racism, Sexism, Homophobia (none are seen stage but are implied in text and movement) within also containing language which some audience members may find offensive with also Flashing lights, Loud sound effects

Photo Credit: Smart Banda

A dramatic insight that spreads five decades across sixty minutes! 

This is what the Sheffield Crucible has to offer, with their new co-produced show of the World Premiere of LINES

Currently playing in the theatre's smaller space (Tanya Moiseiwitsch Playhouse). Lines takes you through five decades in sixty minutes, exploring five prisons in three different countries (Palestine, Uganda and England), and how different each prison is in a postcolonial time. Lines does tackle sensitive and tricky topics that are presented in the text and symbolic movement which includes Colonialism, Violence, Death, Pregnancy, Abortion, Racism, Sexism and Homophobia.

My initial thoughts going into this show was open, as I went in with knowledge on what it was about, and that the show was only going to be performed by two performers, I looked into the company (Roots Mbili Theatre) who made this show, to give me a sense of other shows the company have performed to get a sense of their productions, but my one thought was with such a short run time will this show get everything in. 

LINES runs for 1 hour without an interval. Like always, my reviews are 100% honest and I will always justify my ratings, thoughts and feelings, always giving constructive feedback and my opinions are my own. 

Photo Credit: Smart Banda

Written and created by John Rwothomack, Fidaa Zidan, Alexandra Aron, Junaid Sarieddeen and additional writing by Asiimwe Deborah Kawe, all five have written a powerful piece of sixty minute theatre. The show sets out to give you a view of the two similar lives of two different people, and how the prisons are different in the country's postcolonial time. The show's writing intertwines two writing styles which are directed at us (the audience) and us watching a show, to get the two lives across the styles had to intertwine to make this idea a success.

It does sway more to presenting the show directly to the audience with performers Rwothomack and Zidan jumping into scenes to show what they are both talking about. In the first five to ten minutes of the show we are told about the five decade timeline and narrates that the show will go through the countries Palestine and Uganda. There were a few small funny moments that the audience around me did laugh at but to me I was unsure whether to laugh, with the show being a heavy subject, message and including themes that are more serious then funny, I didn’t feel I should laugh at the few small moments that were there, but that is me and my opinion.

The book did sometimes create a slight confusion with a few bits that got me a little lost when talking directly to us as an audience. I did like this idea, I thought it was a good addition. I understood what the idea was trying to create. I think at times some of the dialogue could have been cut down slightly, or if this dialogue is vitally-crucial to the message, make this show longer to make sure the audience understands through the two styles, which did work and added a good creative element, but could work even better if it was developed more to make it more understandable, as I felt that I understood the show better when Rwothomack and Zidan jumped into the scene to expand on their direct audience dialogue. I think this could be the main problem with this production for me, with so much information in so little time, with a show that spans over multiple decades of two people's countries' and histories, more time should be given to support this to get a better understanding. 

With that being said there were aspects of the show I felt were engaging and were well written. The themes were dealt with carefully and the text was visible enough to get a hold of to pick out. All themes are treated with good sensitivity, and a show that looks at differences, inside different prisons in three countries, was quite powerful in places. The book is somewhat dynamic which adds small (yes I may not of liked) funny moments did help the hard topical themes . I did like how the show was written with direct audience dialogue going into a scene, as I felt it gave a personal touch allowing both performers to express their country's side as best they could. It was a very creative approach to tell a piece of history. which is why I think it could work if reconfigured or prolong the duration of the show.

Photo Credit: Smart Banda

Directed by Junaid Sarieddeen, Sarieddeen creates a prominent direction that is definitely symbolic and is crucial to the show. Sarieddeen adds layers of repetition throughout the show which feels cohesive to the text to help mould the importance in the audience's mind. I really thought Sarieddeen’s direction to the show felt well devised and landed in the right places where it should be most important. What I also liked with this direction is that when Rwothomack and Zidan are talking to us, some of the time both step from performance space to deliver the dialogue, which I thought was effective as it divided and defined the direct audience to the scene, which is what probably made the scenes a bit more understandable to me. It helped me focus a bit more on the two deliveries. Sarieddeen’s direction is strong which supplies good understanding to the audience of what may have been understood through the text. 

Photo Credit: Smart Banda

Rwothomack who is from Uganda and Zidan who is from Palestine, create and perform a performance of their discoveries of similarities and differences of each other and their countries five decade history. This was really well delivered with both having given an equal performance throughout and strong enough in their acting in their own right, giving great teamwork on stage. Both who hold a strong presence throughout.

With John Rwothomack, who plays the character John, plays a very good character, Rwothomack shows emotion with great ability, delivering each line with importance and creates tension when most needed, Rwothomack presents a well rounded performance. 

Fidaa Zidan plays the character Fidaa. Fidaa is brilliant, and brings all energy to the performance with confidence, Zidan plays each scene with great skill, and is a great talented performer to watch.

Both  Rwothomack and Zidan come together will all the skills and ability to create this truly intense piece of theatre.

The set for this show was quite simple with metal bars surrounding the stage and splitting it in half. The metal bars are then picked up by the pair to create locations of each country's prison which was a great simple set design by Kevin Jenkins. The projection and video design that displayed words and helped location by Tal Yarden was great, the set is made sure to be simplistic enough to let the text shine.

LINES is ultimately a show that carries a piece of history in a very prominent way. This show is clever in how it achieves what it wants to achieve. The main area that I feel let the show down for me in LINES is the book, the direct audience being a little confusing. There's so much information that it is vital and should be heard, I feel its pacing is too quick for it and me personally, would definitely benefit from a longer run time. It’s powerfully played by two great performers but in the end LINES is a show that you should see to get you educated to understand postcolonial lives. With a few changes, I believe you will have a really good educational piece of theatre for all. 


LINES plays at the Tanya Moiseiwitsch Playhouse until Saturday 9th March.

Photo Credit: Smart Banda

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