Bodoli, to exist. Something we take for granted, something we do every day. But to exist as yourself, to find a place where you can be, can exist as your true self, is another matter.
In Imrie we meet two sisters, Josie and Laura. Neither fits in, each is in her own way on the margins. Opening with a Friday night party on the beach, Laura tries to find her way into the popular crowd in school but, as a mixed race girl in an exclusionary, predominantly white, space she finds herself “in the middle but still on the sides.” Josie, on the other hand, does not want to venture into the centre of the group and instead remains on the fringes, distanced from the group. That is, until she finds the spotlight painfully thrown upon her and flees the scene, running away to the water’s edge.
It is at this point that the magic realism of this work comes into play, as Josie meets the enigmatic Imrie and discovers an underwater world, finding herself invited to a magical party populated by people like her, a place where she can fit in. In this absorbing coming of age tale, Josie and Laura learn valuable lessons about identity and community.
The world of clique-y teenage social groups is one familiar to many of us. The underwater world of sirens, less so. But Morais’ writing coupled with Ceri James’ simple but dynamic lighting design draws the audience into both worlds with ease. James’ use of contrasting palettes and movement to distinguish between worlds within Cai Dyfan’s sleek, pared-back set is smart and effective. Rippling colours, bright shaping lines and UV light conjure the magical new place in which Josie discovers her identity, while sharp returns to a stark white box jolts us back to earth, and these distinctions gradually blur and become more fluid as the story evolves.
Under Gethin Evans’ direction, Rebecca Wilson as Josie and Elan Davies as Laura both deliver strong performances, deftly holding the space through pensive monologues and portraying a convincing sisterly relationship through their dialogue. Each portrays a balance of vulnerability and growth that provokes a feeling in the audience of being an older sister, who wants to reach out and guide the characters safely through the unsettled waters of self-discovery.
A captivating meditation on sisterhood and the sidelines, Imrie is a must-watch for anyone, teen or adult, who has ever struggled to fit in and find their place.
Imrie runs at the Sherman Theatre until 20th May before touring Wales until the 16th June.