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Review: Hot Orange at Contact is ‘bittersweet, lyrical and compassionate’

Hot Orange is the latest immersive theatre piece from the UK’s leading small scale venue and touring company Half Moon. 

Hot Orange is the latest immersive theatre piece from the UK’s leading small scale venue and touring company Half Moon.

Tandeki and Amina have been best friends ever since they met on the basketball court of their estate.

In between games, the two young girls create an elaborate imaginary world where anything is possible.

Creating an Imaginary World

They wrestle krakens, play in the WNBA and save the day with true loves kisses, all before the streetlights come on.

As they grow older, their bond deepens  and becomes more sacred as they both navigate the world around them.

Circumstances beyond their control force the girls apart and when they reunite at eighteen, they try to retrace their steps and recapture the magic of their past.

Amal Khaladi and Tatenda Naomi Matsvai

Written by Amal Khaladi and Tatenda Naomi Matsvai, Hot Orange draws on each of their upbringings in different religious households as queer people.

Perhaps it is the basis of truth that makes the characters and the story feel so lived in and truly authentic.

Amina and Tandeki feel like people they have known and loved in their own lives.

Fantastic Pacing

Despite spanning ten years, the story never drags and feels like a well-oiled machine.

It is efficient and succinct without ever rushing. This is, at least in part, due to the lyrical and poetic nature of the dialogue.

Not only is it evocative and engaging for the audience, but it helps maintain the momentum.

Each key moment for the characters is never dwelled upon but is given the proper amount of time and space within the story.

Organic Character Growth

This makes every emotional arc and moment of character growth feel earned and organic.

Despite being only an hour long, it feels as though you have grown up alongside Amina and Tandeki because of the care and attention that has been paid to the characters.

A World of The Characters Making

Hot Orange is an immersive story that is almost entirely dependent on the two actors and their ability to transport the audience to a world of their own making.

Despite these high stakes, Tatenda Naomi Matsvai and Yasmin Twomey make it look effortless.

They move about the space with an ease, fully confident in their next line and their next move.

Tatenda Naomi Matsvai plays younger Tandeki with such a youthful exuberance and infectious joy that feels so true to life.

While older Tandeki is just as childlike and a little naive, Tatenda’s portrayal means that it doesn’t feel like a character flaw.

It feels like a personal victory.

She has held onto the joy she felt as an eight year old despite growing up in an unwelcoming world.

Amina is more jaded than Tandeki and slower to trust her again when the pair reunite. She is trying to save money before escaping to university in Scotland, far away from her home in Peckham.

The Incredible Yasmin Twomey

Yasmin Twomey’s performance is deeply relatable. She perfectly captures the awkwardness of growing up and becoming acutely aware of yourself and all the ways you differ from your peers.

When she was younger, Amina was lead by her heart- she bucked against gender roles at Arabic School because she couldn’t help herself, while eighteen year old Amina tries to be much more logical.

Yasmin Twomey understated performance shows this internal conflict beautifully. Her sensitive portrayal helps the audience to understand where she is coming from and invites sympathy.

Both actors have incredible chemistry with one and other and it makes it impossible not to root for Amina and Tandeki.

Powerful Lighting Team

The lighting (designed by Sasha Corcoran) is used sparingly to achieve maximum effect.

It mimics the amber glow of streetlights as well as the floodlights of basketball court and it helps to convey the passage of time as well as various changes of setting.

Sound Design Mirroring the Passage of Time

Sound design is a key factor in conveying the passage of time as Amina and Tandeki grow up.

Key ages are marked with the one of the rules to their imaginary worlds being played, this portions up the story into sections nicely and is a clever device that hints at the events ahead without ever revealing them entirely.

This makes the audience feel included within the story and creates the impression of a memory being recalled with the benefit of hindsight.

A Bittersweet and Compassionate Look Back at Childhood

Hot Orange is a bittersweet and compassionate look back at childhood and the grief that comes along with growing up.

It reminds people that to move forward sometimes you have to look back, past the heavy things and focus on the joy.

Hot Orange is a standing show so seating is limited and you may have to leave your seat during the performance.

Hot Orange is at Contact until Thursday 30th November. Tickets are available here

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