• Amy Toledano

If This Is Normal presented by Chatback Theatre

What Is It?

If This Is Normal is a new play about the sexual experiences of young adults in a world of information overload and weaponised language, written by Lucy Danser and presented by Chatback Theatre.

What Is It About?

It is about the relationship between brother and sister Madani (Isambard Rawbone) and Maryam (Zarima McDermott) and their best friend Alex (Aoife Smyth) from when they meet in year five until they finish their A Levels and go off into adulthood.

How Did It Make Me Feel?

This is a very emotive play. Afterwards it was almost hard to believe that it only ran for an hour - a lot is crammed in and, other than a brief scene shortly before the halfway point, the pace carries well throughout, thanks to director Helena Jackson.

Both Rawbone and McDermott give energetic performances, delivering the humour and emotion well. Smyth’s performance is excellent, flitting between laugh-out-loud jokes and intense emotional vulnerability; it is impossible not to feel those moments of the piece with her. Despite the challenging nature of the echoey Pit venue, Nicola Chang’s sound design works well to immerse the audience within the lives of the characters, a mix of club and grime songs dominating some scenes and gently underscoring others.

Lucy Danser’s writing is incredibly engaging and consistently funny throughout the entire piece. Her skill is obvious: neither the humour nor emotional moments suffer, as her script deftly slips from one to the other. Some of the subject matter is uncomfortable and thought-provoking in exactly the way good theatre should be, and very importantly, Danser’s piece says a lot of things that desperately need to be said.

Anything Else?

This is a very poignant and important play about the pressures society puts on young people in their youth, and shows how necessary healthy communication about sex and boundaries is for young people in the modern world.

Based on this experience, Chatback Theatre are definitely one to watch.

Calum x

If This Is Normal is playing in the Pit, VAULT Festival Pit until the 28th February 2020.

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