Theatre review - What If If Only and Is God Is

Caryl Churchill’s latest offering, What If If Only, explores the grief of a man (John Heffernan), mourning the loss of his partner and facing an unknown future which comes to him in human form (Linda Bassett).

The possible futures Bassett presents him with embrace the personal and the political. In lyrical, intense language, Churchill interweaves hope and despair to mesmerising effect in just 18 minutes.

James McDonald’s production utilises Miriam Buether’s miniature box set, Prema Mehta’s deft lighting and Isaac Madge’s video content to create a sense of otherworldliness and wonder. It’s on at 6pm (10pm on Fridays) so it’s worth seeing the play as part of a double-bill with Aleshea Harris’s high-octane, revenge drama.

Larger than life, Is God Is, directed by Ola Ince, could not be more different from Churchill’s meditative piece.

 Set in contemporary America, two young women, twins, Anaia (Adelayo Adedayo) and Racine (Tamara Lawrence), are summoned by their mother, She (Cecilia Nobel), who they had thought was long dead.

They are heavily scarred after an horrific fire caused by their father, Man (Mark Monero), eighteen years earlier, brought vividly to life in Chloe Lamford’s innovative set.

On her death bed, their mother, who they nickname God, asks her daughters to exact a terrifying revenge. She wants her husband dead: “real dead. Lotsa blood is fine.”

The twins set off on a killing spree which includes their father’s drunken lawyer, Chuck (Ray Emmet Brown), their father’s wife Angie (Vivienne Acheampong) and his two sixteen-year-old sons, Scotch (Ernest Kingsley Jnr.) and Riley (Rudolphe Mdlongwa).

Violence begets violence is Harris’s central message although her exploration is utterly original. She finds humour in horror and clearly relishes spectacle — playing with various theatrical tropes and mashing together different styles from Greek tragedy to the spaghetti western and road movie; opera, hip-hop and Afropunk.

Harris’s bold play is nothing less than compelling, her dialogue soars and her bold characterisation remains with you.

Both shows are on until Oct 23