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Oddlie is, true to its name, a pleasantly strange mixture. It is a one-woman fairy-tale told in performance poetry about a waif living in an American trash heap and learning herself to become a poet by writing words in the dust. It is backed by a single kettle-drummer, with the language and cadences of the civil rights movement appearing early in the narrative as a prelude to our protagonist's emancipation through poetry.

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.

Venue Number 13. Venue 13, Lochend Close, Canongate, EH8 8BL. 4-18 August 11:45 (50 minutes). Suitability: 14+. Mild profanity

The Blurb

Oddlie is the story of a (mostly) mute outcast's search for her voice in a city of garbage heaps. Through spoken word poetry, traditional storytelling and song, Aleshea Harris spins the tale of Oddlie’s journey to herself.

Call Sheet

Production Company
CalArts Festival Theater

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