Emina Ashman’s Make Me A Houri is an artistic and intellectually stimulating performance for those with an artistic eye, appreciation of complex and confronting issues, and an appreciation of a good show. It makes the audience think (something good art often does), as well as being visually and verbally an aesthetic treat – definitely check it out if you get the chance.
The play deals with several big issues, circling around and blending them together in a thoughtful and very well-constructed script. Ranging from personal sex lives and encounters, through to concepts such as Armageddon and post-death contemplation, everything is laid bare for the audience to see. But ultimately everything revolves around the two women trying to understand themselves and their bodies through a variety of different stories and angles, yet never fully managing to fit neatly into any pre-created categories (all which seem to suspiciously be designed to please men).
The fact that this is done through a combination of “conversational” dialogue and rapid-fire poetry only makes it more interesting.
Aesthetically, the stage and costumes are very well done. Everything onstage has a purpose, but is done naturally and in a manner which makes it seem like the most natural thing in the world to have the props almost suddenly appear (such as the fridge which doubles as a seat and altar). Furthermore, apart from utility, everything had symbolic value – without giving too much away, even the little things have clearly been well thought out, and something like the fridge has multiple meanings throughout the play.
There is an issue of timing that does detract slightly from the impact of the finale. Although much of the content explored has its merits (as noted above), at times the stories seem to bleed into each other and drag on just a bit too long, which ultimately means the final turns and twists have slightly less impact than they could have. Which is a shame because, as mentioned, the ending has a very strong message, which is further emphasised by strong artistic direction. However, this does not detract from the overall thought-provoking and insightful nature of the performance.
Overall, although there were some minor problems with the overall length detracting from the impact of the show, Make Me A Houri is a strong and engaging show. Covering abroad range of intellectual topics, this is a play that will make you think and contemplate, even if you do not share the life experiences of the writer, all while getting to appreciate a visual treat and listening to good poetry.
Make Me A Houri is playing until the 4th of August at La Mama Theatre in Carlton. Book your tickets here.