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Hot Orange (Susan Elkin reviews)

Show: Hot Orange

Society: London (professional shows)

Venue: Half Moon Young People’s Theatre. 43 White Horse Road, London E1 0ND

Hot Orange

4 stars

Susan Elkin | 14 Nov 2023 11:09am

Directed by Chris Elwell.

Explorative, immersive theatre for adolescent audiences, set in their own local environment, is a central plank of Half Moon’s work. And the plays get ever more interesting and challenging.

Hot Orange, a 60 minute one-act play, explores a possible same- sex relationship which grows out of childhood friendship and is potentially unacceptable to the communities these characters live in, partly because of racial and cultural differences.

The story emerges in very convincing flashbacks which include poetic monologues delivered straight to the audience so they’re effectively soliloquies. The two actors move amongst and around the audience who are seated on boxes which are part of the set, or on the floor. The props are minimal (design by Sorcha Corcoran) but are handed, without fuss to  audience members to hold when they’re not in use. The two school parties, all girls, that I saw the show with took this totally in their stride as they did being gently moved from their seats when one of the performers needed the box to stand on. The directing is impressively seamless.

Tandeki (Tatenda Naomi Matsvai, who also co-wrote the piece) and Amina (Yasmin Twomey) first meet in Peckham when they’re eight although the piece opens with an awkward account of an encounter ten years later when they haven’t seen each other for a long time.  They play imaginative games and eventually discover basketball together: the ball is the titular hot orange with parallel reference to the sun because the action takes place over a series of summers. They make heart-felt promises to each other, as children do, but eventually it goes wrong, partly but not entirely because Tandeki’s family move away. There are issues which relate to Amina being a Muslim and Tatenda’s growing up in an evangelical Christian household which includes three weeks’ “church camp” in the summer although, tellingly, these are not differences which bother the central pair themselves much.

Matsvai, whose voice work and movement are richly compelling is a charismatic actor to watch who conveys exactly the right level of innocent childishness and then, later, the near-adult hurt and angst. Twomey makes Yasmin, a gentler, less pushy character but she conveys a real sense of warmth, vulnerability and eventually strength. Both performances are skilfully nuanced and these actors work adeptly together.

The action is subtly underpinned by Johnny Tomlinson’s sound design which provides a lot of mood and atmosphere without ever being overbearing.

I overheard one of the accompanying teachers tell a theatre staff member at the end, after the ten minute Q/A with the performers, that his students would have a lot to discuss when then they got back to school and that he would share it with the theatre. Yes, this play is going to engender some rewarding debate and, no doubt, some fascinating writing. So Half Moon has achieved what the play sets out to do – again. Well done, all.


First published by Sardines:

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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