Aisha is a no holds barred narration of the ordeal of 14 year old Aisha whose parents sold her into marriage with a 51 year old man. Author AJ has painted bold word pictures of gross acts of indecency performed against an unwilling child. Laura Adebisi shines as Aisha in her professional debut.
Arms pinned down at each corner of this crux – a handmaiden crucified by the hands of lust.
Aisha has been written and directed by a young newcomer, AJ. This is his first play and it is currently being presented at the Hen and Chickens Theatre.
The play discusses issues arising from child marriages in the UK. AJ has used elements of spoken word and rhyming verse in a style that is contemporary and challenging. It is a no holds barred narration of the ordeal of 14 year old Aisha whose parents sold her into marriage with a 51 year old man. AJ has painted bold word pictures of gross acts of indecency performed against an unwilling child. It is disturbing to watch.
This aura of horror is reinforced by the acting of Laura Adebisi who invokes the sights, sounds and even smells of her violation. Adebisi is a second year university student who cannot be much older than the character she plays. This is a strong professional debut performance as she capably supports the entire play.
The role of the husband is silent when he first enters and Ayo Oyelakin projects suitable menace in these scenes. In subsequent scenes, though, when the action is explicit and highly dramatic, Oyelakin struggles to deliver an authentic voice.
Providing a further layer of interest is Sabrina Richmond in the role of the mother. She appears as a figure of Aisha’s imagination to deliver advice in times of distress. The scenes between mother and daughter provide more insight into the practice of child marriages, justified by cultural and religious traditions. Richmond delivers the role with an air of remoteness.
Lloyd Morris appears in the role of Mr White, friend and business partner of the husband. White also violates Aisha with the tacet permission of the husband, reinforcing the girl’s position as worthless chattel. Morris plays Mr White as suitably bombastic and obnoxious but the character lacks dimension.
Up to this point in the play the writing and flow of the piece is logical and tight with a clearly defined objective framed in stylistic language. At this point the narrative seems to be at a natural end and the purpose of continuing is unclear. Aisha suffers her second miscarriage and a doctor ‘friend’ of the husband comes to the home. Alexander Lincoln is the doctor and appears out of place in the scene. The doctor is played as a caricature rather than a fully realized character.
The final advance in the story is the arrival of Olivia Valler-Feltham as a support worker who appears in a mystery laden turn events. It seems that Aisha has finally cracked and done damage to the husband. Details of this are served up piecemeal with the audience needing to fill in the details for themselves. Oddly though it’s the support worker who breaks down and delivers a tell-all version of her own abuse, almost a repeat of Aisha’s opening monologue.
Playwright AJ contends that theatre can and should be used to promote social change and there is no doubt that theatre can inform and enlighten its audience. Most of the box office takings from this production will be donated to charitable organizations to assist with effecting change.
The concept of Aisha is sound and much of the writing commendable. A solid performance by Adebisi in the title role goes a long way to counter the lesser aspects of the production.