(Say It) As It Is – as can be deduced from the title itself – is a fiercely raw and unreservedly autobiographical solo show, written and performed by Amanda Quartey, directed and produced together with Noémie Pinaudeau. With the aim to demonstrate the power of speaking uncensored truth, Amanda simultaneously mesmerises and shocks the audience with her upfront and personal piece, her only tools being her body and her loop station.
As Amanda confidently glides onto the stage wearing a white two-piece (crop top and shorts), she begins to record her voice on the loop station positioned upstage centre, immediately sending an electric ripple of excitement through the audience as her singing fills the space. Her voice, and the fact that she is creating the music before us, adds to the refreshing sensation of honesty which, as we soon discover, underpins the whole show. It is important to note that this experimental performance does not follow the typical linear structure of a play with its beginning, middle, and end progression. Instead, Amanda takes us through the stages of a woman discovering herself. She achieves this by stating a poignant incident or occurrence for each age of hers from 8 to 22.
Whether these are in relation to her sexuality, to understanding the nature of attraction, or to her sexual experiences themselves, what stands out throughout the performance is the unwavering, explicit nature of the dialogue. In a similar manner to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, we are invited into the world of this woman who is willing to share with us personal information – from her first encounter with her own body (discovering masturbation and porn), to her physical sex life with people from her past.
In addition to this, Amanda adds a fictional, poetic story about a God and Goddess which is interspersed throughout the show. This story – which she explores through movement as well as speech – explores the dynamic between stereotypical aspects of femininity and masculinity. She explains after the play that these sections enabled her to make sense of, in her own words, ‘the distorted or dysfunctional template that we humans have often been forced into – this being the roles of subject and object.’ So within this fictional aspect of the show, Amanda deepens the exploration of the male gaze and furthers the questions regarding subjectivity which arise naturally throughout, all of which complements the more confessional material within the show.
Her clever use of flour and water throughout the show proved to be one of the most thought-provoking aspects of her piece. Whilst describing more intimate, autobiographical moments, Amanda caked white flour onto her arms, legs or face, using either long elegant movements or rash actions. Before entering into the narrative of the God and Goddess which separated her almost confessional-like performance, she would wash the flour off with water. This, as admitted by Amanda after the performance, could be interpreted however the audience liked. To her, the flour symbolized the memories being stored in the body, the water represented being cleansed and letting them go. To me, they also seemed to evoke the stereotypical misconception that a woman, speaking openly about her sexual experience and desires, is unclean or dirty.
However, arguably the most important aspect of the show was indeed the raw, explicit nature of the dialogue as she exhibits her personal experiences to us. This is strengthened by the way she refuses to shy away from her darker, more seemingly twisted desires. It is these moments which so clearly ring true with audience members who lack the courage to admit them offstage, let alone onstage! There is of course a normal tendency to censor, or, in some cases suppress, truthful thoughts and desires in our day-to-day lives. Naturally, therefore, hearing Amanda speak without filter as she shares her perverted or deviant desires is what resonated so successfully with the audience. It is these moments which are engraved into our thoughts as we leave the studio.
The power of her voice and her honesty urged us to think of all the times we’ve lacked the courage to express ourselves. I couldn’t help but notice the wave of relief which engulfed the audience (once the initial shock had simmered down) as Amanda delved into sexual experiences and instants of self-realisation. The flutter of whispers which rose at the end included ‘That happened to me!’, ‘I related so much with that!’ and so on, demonstrating just how much of an effect her confessional work had on our subconsciously suppressed selves. She was helping us find our voice and confidence too by paving the path for us.
We are left – after facing her fearless eye contact for almost two hours – questioning ourselves, our own histories, the choices we have made as humans in regards to love, lust and sexuality. Most importantly though, we are able to leave comforted in the knowledge that we are not alone in our darker desires or fears, and we are encouraged to do as Amanda herself has done. To say it as it is.
Image Credit: Amanda Quartey