Octopus review at Assembly George Square, Edinburgh – ‘inspired’
Getting to know each other awkwardly in waiting rooms and corridors as they’re put through the sinister bureaucratic mill are dizzy conceptual artist Scheherazade (Dilek Rose), equally dizzy charity worker Sarah (Rebecca Oldfield) and prickly accountant Sara (Alexandra D’Sa). They’re Brits, but two are Middle Eastern, Indian-looking, and one strangely isn’t, each summoned to a government ethnicity interview. As their bewilderment and then resistance grows, the case against them for failing to meet new standards for ‘Britishness’ builds in this inspired satirical take on post-Brexit attitudes with more than a few jaw-dropping laughs along the way.
Trapped by the Orwellian tendrils of red tape winding ever tighter around them, the trio of characters face a painstakingly polite barrage of questions and forms about their colour, name, religion and foreign maternal grandparents. It’s dangerous territory since they’re lured into farcical self-incrimination with every answer to the loaded questions fired off by the bored sub-contracted hijab-wearing officials. As the process questions their ethnic standing, these mismatched women overcome their antipathy to one another and, in bonding with each other, find their personal inner strengths to be who they are.
Writer Afsaneh Gray has come up with a multi-levelled script that feeds the cast brilliant punchlines but also gives them the space to develop their characters convincingly and keep the tension going.
Director Pia Furtado similarly ensures the pace never drops while bringing out the personal journeys. For all its wackiness, Octopus (Scheherazade’s description for being mixed race) is a premise made all the more believable by the actual UK administrative jargon that laces the dialogue throughout.
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