'GREY' is a powerhouse performance that is unafraid to address the reality of living with depression, accompanied by live music and full BSL interpretation. Main actress and writer, Koko Brown, is joined by her interpreter Sapphire Joy, acting as her conscience, as several events are depicted in her struggle with her sadness. Despite innovative staging and some undeniably powerful moments of acting, though, the play is somewhat lacking in direction and purpose.
Music makes up the unique flow of this production, drawing an audience into what can only be described as a hybrid of beats, poetry and ethereal vocal tones- all made through Brown’s looping machine. While it is indeed innovative and entertaining to watch Brown building up each piece of music layer by layer, it can often be the case that this creative focus makes one lose track of the story. It’s difficult to tell whether this is supposed to be the point or not, so perhaps the production could have been more thoughtful in its balance of music-making and plot line.
Apart from this, the music really does manage to connect with the protagonist’s emotional instability. For example, the way that the first layers of looped noise create a blurry soundscape which is tied together when the beat kicks in, is reflective of the protagonist doubting herself and finding temporary solace in her antidepressants which she is reluctant to take.
Lighting designer Martha Godfrey definitely deserves much credit for bringing to life the emotional effects of the sound-looping music. A set of geometric lights across the top of the set sleekly alternates depending on the mood; in a waiting room, they switch on and off rhythmically to imitate a clock, and during the protagonist’s more intense breakdowns, they flicker with TV static.
Despite the technical successes of sound and lighting, there are unavoidable, inherent problems surrounding plays to do with depression. The nature of a depressive state of being, generally involving long periods of inactivity, often means that the direction and plot of the production suffers. Overall, though, the actresses’ chemistry as they fuse BSL interpretation and music is truly delightful and dramatically innovative-a real pleasure to watch.
'GREY' is on at the Ovalhouse Theatre until the 13th of July and tickets are available here.