I Am Here

Shop Front Theatre, Coventry


Theatre Absolute has a well-earned reputation for enlivening, intelligent and innovative theatre at the Shop Front, an ex-fish and chip shop in Coventry city centre, and the latest project, based on the Henry David Thoreau quote “We are not where we are but in a false position”, prompted Julia Negus and Chris O’Connell to commission six plays.

I am beginning to suspect that these pieces are all from women and from their own unique standpoint.

The second in the series, I Am Here written and performed by Laila Alj, is a great title for her autobiographic journey from Morocco through Chicago and New York to London where she currently lives and works.

She might be ‘here’ at the moment but ‘here’ is a moving party. Needless to say Brexit and its potential impact on her life featured heavily in the piece; convinced that, though really happy and making progress in the difficult, overpopulated and penurious acting profession, she would have to move on again – to a different language and a different city. To go home to Morocco is seen as failure.


Lai;a Alj

Laila Alj, writer and performer of I am here

This piece is a snapshot, a personal and intelligent look at her life, funny and thoughtful but was less theatre and more story-telling, which I can take a lot of, and true to form - I wanted more of it and I wanted more information as well about how her choices came about.

I thought about her family, who let her leave Morocco – Casablanca to be precise – and seek golden pavements in first America and then Britain. I was a young woman – once! – with a hatful of dreams that were always squashed at the first encounter with the parents.

So, I enjoyed the privilege of the information and took my metaphorical hat off to her many times in that half-hour performance! It was simple, just a bucket as a prop, and a halfway house between stand-up and a lecture.

First off, May Utang, by playwright and performer Jules Orcullo, an Asian Australian, is first generation daughter of a family who left the Philippines for Sydney, Australia in 1976 and who is now settled in London.

Her piece provided an elegant rhythm as a method to debunk the widespread myths about Australian culture: that “the land that is called Australia” is full of blonde, lazy, sex-crazed, racist bar tenders and no one else. These pieces will be reprised; updated and developed.

Jane Howard


Theatre Absolute 

Index page Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre