Eve Ensler’s Avocado Hasn’t Gone Soft
June 2, 2015
[Images credited to Anthony Robling]
Isn’t Yorkshire great? Isn’t Leeds great? Here we are, in the desolate North, yet we’re privy to some of the most interesting and inspiring cultural events.
Case in point, the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Avocado. Not only was this a world premiere from Tony Award winning dramatist Eve Ensler, whose play The Vagina Monologues has become a worldwide phenomenon, each performance was followed by a passionate and eye-opening discussion on the UK’s approach to refugee and asylum seekers. The post-performance discussion almost threatened to overshadow the play, no small feat considering the quality of Ensler’s writing and actress Rebecca Grant’s heart-wrenching performance.
Avocado reveals a woman in darkness, of unknown nationality in an unknown situation where an unknown danger is constantly present.
All we know is that she is afraid and angry. As the darkness clears, we discover she is an escaped sex slave en route to the mythical land of Asylum. It’s a tough story to hear, but the play’s forthright approach to sexual abuse is far from gratuitous. This is one woman’s story but it’s not an uncommon story. Eve Ensler’s activism has revealed that one billion women and girls in the world will be beaten or raped at some point in their lives. Instead of being provocative, Avocado shows the humanity that fights against the abuse. The central character is fierce and humorous, strong and yet tender. It’s a powerful performance from Rebecca Grant, best known for her role on Holby City, intensified by unnervingly oppressive sound design and lighting.
Yet it was the post-performance discussion that made this a truly unmissable event. Each night featured a different panel of experts, chaired by director Mark Rosenblatt, and Friday’s panel was beautifully selected. After an emotional story from Eritrean refugee Aster, journalist Bidisha Mamata and charity workers Kate Jennings and Lorna Gledhill discussed all aspects of the refugee and asylum seeker situation in the UK. It was a bolstering and inspiring discussion with all four speakers representing different layers of the refugee crisis. As Bidisha stated, “I can only hope that each person here today tells one other person what’s been said”.
Aren’t we lucky? Furthering Sinclair Belle’s sentiment in his excellent article London Life for Less in Leeds, we have access to such incredible cultural events here in West Yorkshire. With a world-premiere of such a hot-topic play, we have further proof that Leeds really is the UK’s city of culture.