Elephant by Anoushka Lucas
Bush Theatre 24th of October-12th of November
Review by Ben Quashie
Happier Than Ever - Billie Eilish
The play progressively gets darker but at the same time, more impassioned and direct, as Lylah's innocence dissipates with age. Whilst Billie's whole album is synonymous with this theme, Happier Than Ever also tonally gets more intense and impassioned - as the song continues the soft ukelele and whispered lyrics are replaced by electric guitar and crashing drums. The first half of Jess Edwards' production quickly slides discriminatory remarks made to Lylah based on her Ethnic Heritage or class under the rug due to a youthful lack of understanding from Lylah or, later in life, not wanting to rock the boat and damage her music career.
Then, much like the build that begins around 2:18 in Billie's song, Anoushka's writing starts to show us flashes of frustration which build to a cathartic flashpoint & release of energy from our protagonist at the end, clearly & concisely addressing every issue we've we've been presented with and also importantly outlining that she doesn't have all the answers but that things need to change.
Nobody Knows (Ladas Road) - Loyle Carner
Loyle Carner's Nobody Knows touches on the complex nuances of being a mixed race child growing up whilst never relinquishing the pride attached to his identity. Almost all the same story beats found in the rapper's song can also be found in Anoushka Lucas' excellent debut play. Elephant follows the story of Lylah, a mixed race working class girl attending a private school in 1997, and the same Lylah in 2016 navigating the music industry and romance. Both Lylah and the play's lives are rooted in pianos, a recurring theme in Lylahs life and essentially the supporting performer to Anoushka's lead.
I Say a Little Prayer - Aretha Franklin
Laura Howard's lighting design perfectly complements every single moment in the script the same way the choir in this Aretha Franklin classic is as crucial as Aretha herself. Bathing the stage in soft pinks and golds for the lighter moments, perfectly contrasts the shadows and silhouette Laura utilises to pick out key story beats throughout. It's clear the amount of dramaturgical work that has been put in by Daniel Bailey & Deirdre O'Halloran to unlock the design elements presented in the script and has been delivered to maximum effect by the creative team firing on all cylinders.
Blood On The Leaves - Kanye West
The production regularly interjects Lylah's story to take us on a journey through the British Empire following the graphic sourcing, distribution and re-purposing of ivory in the creation of traditional pianos. In the same way Kanye samples Nina Simone on this track, we are regularly sucked back into the brutal reality of the creation of this instrument which provides so much elegant beauty throughout the play.
Fallin' (Live) - Alicia Keys
I had to throw this song into the review because the best way to describe this production is "exquisite" & I don't think there's a more musically exquisite song than this. I've gone for the live version as, much like Alicia, Anoushka has used this production to show off her extreme level of talent (as she should!) as a writer, musician, performer and all-round storyteller.
An EXQUISITE production and I can't wait to see what Anoushka graces us with next!
Georgetown (ft. John Agard) - Loyle Carner
I Love You More Than You Know (ft. Childish Gambino) - bLAck pARty
Dark Soul - Anoushka Lucas
Golden - Jill Scott
Come Back - Tom Misch
Lost & Found (ft. Charlotte Dos Santos) - Gotts Street Park