Theatre Review – Unnatural Selection

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Unnatural Selection
OPIA Theatre Company
Theatre N16, London
Written by: OPIA Theatre Company
Directed by: OPIA Theatre Company

5_Star_Rating_System_4_starsReviewer: Laura Shoebottom

Four women, one competition, one winner. Unnatural Selection follows Nicky, Esther, Rhianna and Bella in their bid to be the perfect match on gameshow ‘Select Me Out’ where the winner is chosen specifically to procreate. With only one winner and the three losers facing the horrifying prospect of genital mutilation, these women are fighting for more than just first prize.

The show starts with contestants Nicky (Holly Connell-Wallace) and Esther (Katherine Thomas) sat nervously in the studio waiting room with eerie music playing in the background. The atmosphere is palpable from the moment the audience walk in even though neither say a word to each other. The stage is very cleverly designed in an intimate space which gives the impression that the characters are exposed yet trapped at the same time.

Shortly afterwards we are introduced to the exuberant Rhianna (Masha Kevinovna) and the glamorous Bella (Natasha Grace Hutt). All four characters have huge contrasting personalities that are all contained within the crippling confines of the game show and fighting desperately to get out. There is a real sense of them being watched by the producers the whole way through causing sparks (and a lot of popcorn) to fly.

Rhianna and Bella use  comedy to drive their characters which works well in contrast to Nicky and Esther’s more serious, straight talking personalities. The whole cast have been specific with their character choices right down to their subtle movements and nuances to really make these characters rounded and multi-layered, so much so that you never quite know if they are on each others side or not which makes for some real tension filled drama throughout.

The four women’s stories continue to play out through a series of questions, games and arguments. Secrets are revealed and friendships are made and nearly shattered in the build up to the start of the programme. The storyline is packed full of twists and turns which build and build until the dramatic finale where an unexpected result is revealed.

The writing is strong, witty and clever with an underlying poignancy. It explores the subject of female genital mutilation in a dystopian setting whilst also showing the desperation of four very vulnerable characters. Manipulation and deception are two massive key themes which are heightened by the more comedic, light-hearted moments – there is definitely a very clear, heartbreaking journey from start to finish.

Sharp, pacy comedy with a powerfully dark story underneath. 

Touring at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival from August 21st – 27th 2016