Made Visible at the Yard Theatre
Tackling the issue of race is always sensitive and rarely straightforward but, save for a few heavy-handed moments, director Deborah Pearson explores unconscious prejudice both tastefully and with good humour in her newest work Made Visible at the Yard Theatre in Hackney. Based on a “real encounter” in East London, this quasi-autobiographical show is a candid piece of contemporary theatre, using a chance meeting of three women as the foundation for a story that stretches definitions of race and provides, at times, uncomfortably relatable viewing.
Viewed through the lens of Pearson’s remembered interaction, we are introduced to naïve and unwittingly ignorant Deborah (Haley McGee), who ends up in conversation with an older woman, Ila (Mia Soteriou), whose cultural background and racial identity fuel Deborah’s curiosity. Ostensibly set around this conversation, Made Visible quickly takes a meta-theatrical turn as the actors step out of their roles as strangers on a bench and instead start discussing, with increasing passion and directly to the audience, exactly what motivated Deborah to write about this exchange.
Following this set-up (which gives audiences fair warning that complete attention is required to follow the narrative), Ila and Deborah are joined by Ayesha (Anjali Mya Chadha), who adds a further voice to a conversation that eventually boils down to a simple and awkward, truth: many Western white people are frequently and unknowingly racist. On the way to this conclusion, Pearson’s writing adeptly satirises a host of tropes and inaccurate expectations that have nonetheless become engrained in British culture – that all Indians are Hindu or own newsagents, for example.
For the most part, Made Visible doesn’t preach, instead relying on audiences to reach their own conclusions. Although there are some leaden moments around the midpoint as Deborah, Ila and Ayesha discuss everyday racism by way of personal experiences and tangential asides, the play clips along, buoyed by good humour and impeccable delivery from McGee and Chadha. Indeed, Made Visible is at its best when McGee’s unknowingly prejudiced Deborah squirms under Ayesha’s dry probing: “So… you want an Indian accent then?”, she sighs as the two discuss how the scene on the bench should develop.
With its fingers firmly on the pulse of society, Made Visible’s message will no doubt be a tough one for some to swallow. However, Pearson’s script flows easily with consistent insight and good humour. It is not to be missed.
Made Visible is on at the Yard Theatre from 15th March until 9th April 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Made Visible here: