Oreo – Review HOME Manchester

Tania Camara doesn’t utter a single word. Not one. Instead for the whole hour of the production of Oreo, she gives a tour de force of a performance in captivating the audience to her every whim. Oreo is part of HOME Manchester’s now established PUSH Festival, which not only showcases the best the region has to offer but in my humble opinion, brings a little bit of sunshine in this bleakest of months.

Now in its fourth incarnation PUSH 2020 is becoming something of a staple for the art connoisseur in Manchester at this time of year. Whilst other theatres struggle to get the punters in for another edition of their Christmas leftovers following on from the traditional pantomime season, HOME Manchester is busy smashing the new year with a multitude of events guaranteed to warm the cockles of any seasoned theatre goer.

I of course doth my cap to the authority of the programme notes and in this case I’m happy to quote their marketing spiel:

“Over two weeks, our stages, screens and spaces will be dedicated to showcasing fantastic works from around the region, as well as offering opportunities for creatives to meet industry professionals, share ideas and inspiration and develop their skills. This year’s programme includes 12 theatre shows across both our theatre spaces, including two home commissions in Plaster Cast Theatre’s Sound Cistem and Tania Camara’s Oreo.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself and provides a lovely segway into Oreo and the wonderful performance of Tania Camara.

Oreo is a semi autobiographical solo about being a successfully educated black woman within western society. Camara does this through focussing on public prominent politicians as British MP Diane Abbott and Portuguese activist Katar Moreira. Camara also dispenses with conventional methods, using the power of performance to try provide that introspection, which include physically whitening herself and washing herself clean of the aforementioned whitening process.

Now you wouldn’t think racial and gender politics could be done justice through this medium alone. But you’d be wrong!

Camara gives an utterly compelling performance. As the production unfold, as you listen to Abbott recall the issues of race in today’s society, all the while being unable to take your eyes of Camara and her performance. At times you just hold your breath because the tension had been ratcheted up to an unfathomable high. It was amazing to see how she was adept at holding the audience completely in tune to her portrayal. This without even uttering a single word!

Of course this production is far from perfect. The visuals could be stronger. The pacing and the length could be less languid. The allegorical subject themes could be viewed as being a little bit too much on the nose. And the end when it came was far from the release I think the creators were hoping to induce. It all felt a little incohesive.

No, what makes this piece worth rejoicing about is Camara. It’s her blooming brilliant performance which holds this production together and its many strands.

Verdict: A powerful solo performance from Tania Camara. She puts the complex issues of race and gender under the microscope and challenges the audience through her unconventional portrayal. At times the tension is excruciatingly dramatic. A future star in the making.  4 out of 5 stars

What: Oreo
Where: HOME Manchester
When: 23rd January 2020