Photo credit: Helen Murray. Nalân Burgess and Myriam Acharki pictured
Danusia Samal’s play ‘Out of Sorts’ beat 2,055 scripts from 49 countries to win the International Playwriting Award 2018. Having now seen the play, it is not hard to understand why. This is an intricately written, multi-layered play about identity, belonging, family, love, friendship, mental health and the damage feeling “other” can cause. Multiple threads weave together to create an emotionally powerful and gripping whole. Danusia Samal shows real ambition in the complexity of her storylines, while never losing sight of the emotional heart of her play. ‘Out of Sorts’ is a masterclass in character and story development, I was totally engrossed from start to finish, and the central themes continue to linger with me.
Zara has left home, gone to university and has now joined the workforce. She lives with her housemate Alice, and has just broken up with her childhood boyfriend and fiancé. Now she faces having to tell her family…
The first act is a clever mix of two overlapping locations and timelines, providing a rich and interesting way to show the disconnect between Zara’s two lives: one with her flatmate Alice, and the other with the family she has tried to leave behind.
Rebecca Wood’s set design brilliantly interweaves the two spaces into one, with a wonderful eye for detail that ensures we are grounded in both locations simultaneously. This could jar, but never does, as this production leverages design to bring the writing vision to life with an organic sense of clarity.
The cast are universally brilliant. Nalân Burgess is wonderful as the evasive Zara, landing the sense of a young woman who is holding so much back from everyone around her. Myriam Acharki brings a devastating purity and dignity to Zara’s mother Layla, the chemistry between these two women, particularly in the final scenes of the play, took my breath away. While Oznur Cifci brings a wonderful defiant energy to Zara’s little sister Fatima. Nayef Rashed, Emma Denly and Claudius Peters also shine in their respective roles, bringing to life the two worlds Zara inhabits and the conflict that can cause.
While ‘Out of Sorts’ very much focuses on the disconnect between a 1st and 2nd generation British refugee experience, told from the perspective of a middle eastern family, this play is about so much more than identity politics. It is about who we are and how we define ourselves, particularly in the face of prejudice. It is about family, love and ultimately self-acceptance.
This is an extraordinarily formed, beautiful contemporary play that speaks to the personal, while capturing a real sense of modern day London. I loved the authenticity of it. It took me on an emotional journey, and was not afraid to challenge me along the way.
‘Out of Sorts’ runs at Theatre 503 until 2nd November. I can’t recommend it highly enough to all theatre lovers, particularly those with a passion for great new writing.