Others (4 stars)

This article is from 2010


Impressive piece of verbatim theatre exploring the modern media

Jemma and Kylie, two thirds of the Paper Birds, perch in an armchair and speculate about Nazim, an Iranian woman Jemma’s been corresponding with by post. Maryam, the third Bird, plays Nazim, updating her performance to reflect her colleagues’ conclusions. Though based at first entirely on Nazim’s own words, the armchair pair’s enthusiastic deductions ramify farther and farther from the facts, bombarding Maryam with illogical abusive husbands and suicide bombings as she vainly attempts to draw attention to their fallacies.

Not only is this intensely comical – a rare achievement for a verbatim play – it’s also a playful dissection of the Birds’ own unconscious assumptions and prejudices, and of the conflict at the heart of all documentary and verbatim theatre: the one between entertaining an audience and being faithful to the source. And that’s just one scene.

What’s truly impressive about Others is its use of such inward-looking subject matter to interrogate a much bigger issue: the national media, which face essentially the same dilemma as documentary theatre, and seem (the Birds suggest) to be veering the wrong way.

Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until 29 Aug, 3.20pm, £9–£10 (£7.50–£8.50).


  • 4 stars

Multi-award-winning female collective premiere a visual, political exploration of 'women as Other' and 'Other' women. Based on a six month exchange of letters and emails with an Iranian artist, a prisoner and a celebrity, The Paper Birds, with the help and input of the audience, will deconstruct the stories and voices of…