Sarai

Sarai, currently showing at the Arcola Theatre is a confused blend of spoken word set to music, contemporary dance and characterised monologue. Although the premise is interesting, a contemporary retelling of the biblical tale of Abraham as seen through his wife Sarah’s eyes, the amalgamation of these disparate modes of storytelling make it meandering and dull.

The production has one saving grace, which is the beautiful blend of percussion, trumpet and cello music composed by Byron Wallen and performed by a band who surround Paseda (Jenny Adejayan, Louai Alhenawi, Nao Masuda and Byron Wallen).

Karlina Grace-Paseda has a hard task to bring all the elements together and sadly bows under the pressure. She is clearly a consummate dancer, moving with grace and poise, but she stumbles over words and shouts most of her lines.

Sarai is the barren wife of Abram who, yearning for a child of her own, is forced instead to leave her home and let her husband take other, younger wives. God promises her that if she obeys him she will not only bear a child, but be the mother of a great nation. The set (Victoria Johnstone) a constructed tent like canopy made up of baby clothes, is a somewhat obvious, uninspiring nod to Sarai’s nomadic lifestyle and childlessness whilst her frequent costume changes are totally unnecessary.

The original biblical story is one of the triumph of fortitude and faith in the face of soul-crushing adversity. In this production Sarai is presented as a much stronger character than her husband but sadly the potential for an empowering feminist re-telling is lost because the script is boring, the flow of images turgid and forgettable. Stories of dead children, jealous women and long-harsh journeys are totally uninteresting because Paseda struggles to give the words enough of the nuanced pace required.

The production has one saving grace, which is the beautiful blend of percussion, trumpet and cello music composed by Byron Wallen and performed by a band who surround Paseda (Jenny Adejayan, Louai Alhenawi, Nao Masuda and Byron Wallen). A mix of haunting melodies and mesmerising crescendos with African and Arabian overtones the music is by turns joyful and heart breaking and so entertaining that the words and actions of Sarai often feel like an annoying distraction.

Reviews by Lettie Mckie

Udderbelly Festival

Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel

★★★★★
The Vaults

Skin A Cat

★★★★★
The Vaults

Underground

★★★★
Orange Tree Theatre

The Rolling Stone

★★★★★
Charing Cross Theatre

Piaf

★★
London Theatre Workshop

Through The Mill

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Sarai has been promised that she and her husband Abram will become the founders of a new nation - whose sovereignty will be established upon an old land. This new historical narrative pays homage to the courage and wisdom of this most extraordinary woman as she contends with the formidable forces of famine, disease, persecution and civil war in order to realise her dream.

Sarai features the collaborative work of a team of award-winning artists to present a compelling psychological drama that will stimulate investigation, reflection and a new sense of purpose. The Company is calling this new theatrical style “Theatre of the Soul”.