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Lela & Co
Although described as a monologue, it isn't strictly although for most of this play it is Katie West as the girl whose thoughts we hear. She muses on the lot of women starting with her birth and tells us about her two older sisters. She tells us that in her country it is a women's responsibility, "To sing the songs, the early songs and the late songs, the songs of sleeping and the songs of mourning."
This beautifully written play with its poetic feel had me wondering if what happens to this girl is a metaphor for a war torn country, but this is based on a real woman's story. It is a story about opression, the oppression of women by their menfolk.
Lela explains how on the eve of her thirteenth birthday someone, not her, peels off some of the icing on a magnificent birthday cake and she is blamed and beaten by her father. So physically abused by her father, her misfortune continues with Jay, her sister Elle's husband who seems like a sexual predator.
Jay arranges a husband for Lela on holiday when she is 15. The man is a business acquaintance but it is a mixed marriage as Lela comes from the mountains and her people are at war with her husband's people. Her husband repeatedly rapes her, confining her in a room to a mattress until he realizes he can exploit her by charging other men to sexually abuse her. As he does this he tells us how sexually rapacious she is while she contradicts him. The lighting grows dimmer and dimmer until we can see nothing, only hear Lela's account of the brutality and brain washing from her husband to destroy her sense of worth.
One actor David Mumeni plays all the male parts, father, brother in law, husband and peacekeeper. The performance from Katie West is exceptional as she explains the terrible life she had trapped in a brothel generating profit for her husband. She is charming, naïve and matter of fact. Katie looks like the young Maxine Peake and she speaks in a Northern accent. The words are beautiful, the images they paint cruel and disturbing
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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