What would happen if we were forced to declare to the government our lineage? If Britishness was a state defined identity, where you had to tick all the right boxes to determine whether or not you could stay in your own country? Set in a dystopian future, Afsaneh Gray’s play Octopus explores the definition of Britishness and how those who do not appear to fit the term are treated.
Sara (Alexandra D’Sa), Scheherazade (Dilek Rose), and Sarah (Rebecca Oldfield) have been requested for an interview to determine how British they are or risk having to talk to immigration. Sara, a model citizen from Uxbridge, thinks her job as a tax paying accountant is more important than her family’s ethnicity. Scheherazade agrees that her mixed-race identity does make her “a bit foreign,” but Sarah on the other hand doesn’t understand why she has been called in at all. All three women are forced to recognise their mixed backgrounds, and accept who they really are.
Gray’s witty writing brilliantly examines themes of multiculturalism, racism and identity in a humorous way. Rose’s kooky Scheherazade is very funny, delivering random gems of hilarity throughout the piece. The character’s absent-mindedness gives her a lovable quality, and her punk attitude makes her tenacious. The biggest laughs come from Oldfield, who perfectly performs Sarah, the white woman who is completely oblivious to how her overt tolerance actually comes across – especially when she starts listing her favourite curry dishes. Although the piece is comedic, Gray tackles these thought-provoking concepts in a dignified style, which doesn’t detach from the overall enjoyment of the piece. In a post-Brexit Britain, Octopus is an important piece of work that confronts the concept of identity, and successfully presents the dilemmas faced by some of those who find themselves ticking the “other” box when filling out applications.
Octopus will be at Assembly George Square Theatre (The Box) until 28th August.