THEATRE – Sirens is a roar for the silent minorities

Photo: Kathryn Pierce

In collaboration with @SomewhereEDI

Plucking brilliant! Sirens is a roar for the silent minorities, with guts, glitter and gumption. You need it in your life. [star rating =4/5]

It’s a rare thing to find a piece of theatre which champions authentic lives, in a truly inclusive way, in both its narrative and in its production values.

Under the artistic direction of Florence O’Mahony, award-winning ZooCo’s latest message is a seductive one, and if the diversity in the audience members is anything to go by, this gem of a show is already turning heads, and rightly so.

It’s 500BC and Pia, Xoe and Lou (FLEUR ROOTH, FLORENCE O’MAHONY, ROSALIND HOY), three sirens – half-woman, half-bird creatures, whatever you do, don’t call them mermaids, defy Zeus and find themselves quite literally plucked out of Ancient Greek obscurity and catapulted into Hastings in 2018.

Able to kill any man who hears the sound of their voices, they embark on a mission to find their ancient text which has landed in the hands of unsuspecting Tobi (JAMAL AJALA), a young man whose deafness protects him from the curse. He befriends them, teaching them to communicate through signing, and they conspire to reclaim their lost treasure from the clutches of Stuart, the creepfest museum guy (NICK GILBERT) who has it under guard. Enjoying their new-found freedom, soon enough the sirens find out that minority voices still struggle to be heard and to be free, 2500 years later.

Sirens is an uplifting and defiant piece of physical theatre, at the centre of the well-imagined, creatively-captioned lines and visual display lies a serious and impactful tale, with important and timely observations on oppression, marginalisation, toxic masculinity and sexual violence, all neatly packed into 55 minutes.

The production is slick, with spoken dialogue flowing into Visual Vernacular and dance sequences, marrying sound and silence, with imaginative set design (ADAM BOTTOMLEY), AV and lighting (TIMOTHY KELLY) adding dynamism to the synth soundscapes (MARK ASPINALL). I’m confident that as the show settles into the run, timings will become razor-sharp and it will feel like the cast are fully on top of the show’s considerable pace.

Crucially, the show gathers diverse stories – gender non-conformity, free expression of LGBT+ sexuality, isolation of d/Deaf communities, marginalisation of people of colour – and owns them. Sirens is less about freedom of speech, but rather the freedom to express yourself authentically, and to be understood and included. It isn’t a coincidence that every Sirens performance is also in a relaxed style.

Sirens is a fist-pumping feel-good display of girl power, and a triumph of silent and silenced voices. With a fierce feminist message, this isn’t a cry for freedom, this is a collective roar of liberation.