Theatre Review | Aisha: Harrowing journey through the nightmare of forced marriage
By Ruby Fischer
(Courtesy of the artist)
THIS one-woman play by AJ reveals the brutal girl-hood of the now 17-year-old Aisha who, married at 14 to a wealthy 51-year-old distant uncle, is kept locked in the house and subjected to years of abuse.
Addressing us from a small bed in the corner of Alys Whitehead’s eerily child-sized set, she narrates a story based on actual events that’s hard to watch as she disgorges the memories of her violation in disturbing detail.
It’s an account which raises uncomfortable questions about culpability and
the violent consequences of reticence at a time when up to 8,000 children and women are at risk of being forced into marriage annually in Britain.
Alex Jarrett is sensational as Aisha, with her imaginative performance working on us like a fever. We too start to flinch at the flicker of the kitchen light, the only onstage sign of her husband’s ghoulish presence in the house. And she plays masterfully with the language, written in rhythmic verse with a nod to contemporary spoken-word poetry. While at times the rhyme comes together beautifully, at others it can feel like a clunky romp through a thesaurus — fitting as far as the character is concerned, because Aisha spends much of the play trawling through the pages of a Collins dictionary. However, the text ultimately falls short of its poetic aspirations with lines such as “he drowns my anus in phlegm.”
Yet this is a beautifully told story of nightmarish proportion that provokes
and disturbs while suggesting a grim reality about the choices facing those in Aisha’s position. When she ties a knotted bed sheet to the ceiling fan,
we can’t help but hope it holds.