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If This Is Normal review at Zoo Playground, Edinburgh – ‘promising but underdeveloped’

Zarima McDermott, Isambard Rawbone and Aoife Smyth in If This Is Normal at Zoo Playground, Edinburgh Zarima McDermott, Isambard Rawbone and Aoife Smyth in If This Is Normal at Zoo Playground, Edinburgh

Madani, his sister Maryam and Alex are best friends. After Alex defends Maryam from a racist bully at school they become inseparable and remain that way until their A-levels. Then Alex and Madani fall for one another and things go awry.

Lucy Danser‘s play hangs on a knotty question of consent. Alex and Madani have sex but it doesn’t go the way they’d hoped. It’s awkward and uncomfortable and afterwards Alex feels as if Madani didn’t take her wishes into account. She tells Maryam but this just confuses the matter further in Alex’s mind. Was it miscommunication or something worse? Was it assault?

Danser is good at digging into the emotional mess of the situation and exploring how outside influences – porn, religion, their parents – can distort young people’s ideas about intimacy.
But too often Helena Jackson’s production conflates dramatic tension with scenes of people yelling at one another. The production needs more rigorous and textured direction to make the most of the story.

There are the seeds of something interesting here but it needs more shaping. The character of Madani, in particular, feels less developed than that of the two women and Maryam is so infuriating that at times you want to shake her. The production is anchored by Aoife Smyth’s warm performance as Alex.

The Brunch Club review at Pleasance Pop-Up, Edinburgh – ‘site-specific coming-of-age piece’


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A knotty question of consent sits at the heart of a promising but underdeveloped play