CalArts Festival Theatre
Through spoken word poetry, traditional storytelling and song, Aleshea Harris spins the tale of Oddlie’s journey to herself. Ignored by everyone and leading a pretty miserable existence, everything changes for this unfortunate young woman the first time she hears the unapologetic Rope Haired Man, a spoken word poet. When Oddlie encounters Sasha, a former poet starlet whose right arm holds an invisible thing and whose body is bent with disease, it’s Sasha’s mettle that guides Oddlie from here to there before her most important encounter with the truth of where she’s been and where she hopes to go.
poetry full of joy and despair
– Highly Recommended Show
FOUR STARS – Fringereview.co.uk, August 2012
powerful, heartfelt and gracefully performed
FOUR STARS – Three Weeks – August 2012
Oddly Brilliant – FOUR STARS
Harris is a poet who understands her craft well, has something to say and says it beautifully.
Broadway Baby – 8/8/12
weaves effortlessly between poetry and narrative… As a poetry ambassador in the world of theater, Aleshea Harris is immensely qualified.
gorgeous to hear…language so rich and proud that it demands to be savored…
£8 / £5 (concessions)
Aleshea Harris is an alluring, charismatic presence on stage, her beautiful measured voice a perfect vessel for the classic rhythms of American spoken word recital, dancing nimbly from one phrase to the next without ever rushing her all-important narrative. She is an astute physical performer too, changing speedily and delicately between her characters' various stances with a wicked eye for detail – her ‘old woman’ stance was refreshingly un-caricatured. Her dress is covered with a variety of oddments – old tickets, scraps of paper, bead bags – while the stage is covered with refuse and backdropped by ancient clothing. The rubbish heap almost becomes something magical, the poverty of Dust-Bowl America resourcefully turned into the wonder of a fantastical story.
The slow movement throughout the piece of Oddlie, our heroine, from wide-eyed silent naivety ‘This was Oddlie's first conversation, so she had better think of something clever to say’- to eloquent and defiant feminine empowerment was moving. Choosing to chart this journey through her taking up poetry is inspired. Learning how to describe your parlous state in life is the greatest weapon in changing it. A woman rising from a trash heap to become proud is far more than a tale of racial or gender-empowerment – it is a universal metaphor. Harris is a poet who understands her craft well, has something to say and says it beautifully.
Fred Maynard has written 10 reviews for Broadway Baby since joining the team in 2012.
Venue 13, 4-18 Aug (not 6, 13), 11.45am.
tw rating 4/5 | [Roz Tuplin]
This is poetry full of joy and despair. The twin masks of this production sing in harmony to give you the overwhelming feeling that you have been lulled in a lullaby that is tragic and yet rocks you gently towards slumber. Aleshea’s performance was exceptional. Her moving from one character to another effortless and the physicality of each clearly marked and given certain focus that I was reminded of Alan Cumming’s recent one man Macbeth and how he marked each character with a gesture for us to follow. I found this, though much more compelling as it was a new story. Sasha ends up digging at the spot Oddlie lives looking for what we assume was her daughter. As Oddlie’s presence is never explained we can make a connection that may be right but perhaps is not. Whilst I wanted so much to know if there was a connection between Sasha and Oddlie and I am glad that was never explained.
The set was rubbish; literally. The backdrop a fitting stretched fabric filled with gaping holes through which nothing entered save Oddlie and nothing left. The soundscape was a perfect foil for the piece and the number of instruments used gave you the feeling that care and joy were present in equal measure. The empty bottle as much an equal part as the more traditional and recognisable instruments used.
The only issue that I had with the whole event was the pace. At times slightly ponderous it did start to be come soporific and I was struggling at times to keep myself from giving in to the gentle lullaby.
This is the second year that I have made the effort to meander down to venue 13. It is the second year I have been delighted with the results of my meanderings. The venue has provided me on each occasion with American performances that have captured the essence of new work and just being on the Fringe. With Oddlie I was delighted with the feeling of it being experimental, unsafe and trying to be original. If you have not already done so be an original yourself and seek out the venue and the performances here. It will be well worth it.
Reviewed by Donald C Stewart Sunday 12th August 2012"”