As soon as Is God Is began, I knew I would be hooked for the whole 90 minutes. Lines of fire onstage do that. In writing Is God Is, Aleshea Harris has created a heated and carefully blended mixing pot of eight characters. To the sound of southern twangs and comic sound effects, we sit back and watch the most dramatic DNA test unfold.
“Les go. Now? Eyup.”
The story opens with twin sisters Racine and Anaia introducing each other and themselves: two sides of the same story. Twins. As their early trauma left them with different scars, visible and otherwise, the story takes the sisters on a mission to avenge their mother’s suffering, and shows the audience how a shared experience does not make for shared outcomes.
Is God Is interrogates the meaning of family and asks where its significance is unconditional.
While the sisters refer to their mother (who they had believed to be dead for the past 18 years) as God immediately after meeting her, they show no similar allegiance to any other family members they come across. Their almost immediate agreement to avenge their mother one way or another is like the total commitment one offers a new faith, out of relief at having found what’s been missing up until this point.
The set to this mission, conceptualised by Ola Ince (director) and Chloe Lamford (set designer), is creatively comprehensive. As the sisters travel closer to their destination, everywhere they land is boldly signposted and furnished to let us in on what will happen there. While this does at times say too much about what will unfold before the dialogue begins, these labels act as droll, tongue-in-cheek captions of sorts for each scene. Ince’s directing thrives in these detailed settings. If each scene is a trial to learn what the characters can offer to Racine and Anaia’s quest, Ince’s directing gives the courtrooms a uniquely urgent chemistry. Naia, who this heffa think she foolin? Can’t even lie straight.
The colourful captions are fitting for scenes that act as their own self-contained shows. Every character brings such a different energy to the stage, whether that is a plan to make an arugula salad by any means or showing off authentic Bermuda shorts. Lotsa people have Bermuda shorts they didn’t actually get in Bermuda. While the girls have their means to get each character to share the intel they require, Harris’ deft writing gives us a whistlestop tour of everyone’s background, current qualm and one quirky detail or another about their life. Riley’s all about the succulents.
In the playtext, Harris plays with typography to make the words float around and shadow over each other to convey the shocks, surprises and hesitations the characters experience. These adventures, manifested onstage in the striking captions and the piercing [sounds of rock hitting flesh], show us that this story is unforgettable in any format. I want to read Is God Is as a comic strip, with Anaia’s moments of disdainful hesitation frozen in time next to Racine’s fearless impulses. We’ll do it. Natalie Pryce’s costume design, with each character’s outfit a distinctive portrayal of themselves, would seamlessly translate onto paper. As long as the details are there. Real. Japanese akoya [pearls].
The cast and crew of Is God Is have harmoniously brought to life this ludicrous tale of kin and loyalty. Racine, Anaia and everyone they encounter invite us through a door in the fourth wall to share in this formative moment, in which their sisterhood expands into a family, and then changes shape forever.
Is God Is is on until 23rd October. More info and tickets here.