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Review - Oils

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

RADA Studios

Playing until 15th October 2023


Jessica Rachid


Audrey Thayer, supported by Drayton Arms Theatre

Review {AD - Invited}

Based on a true story, Oils follows the story of an unnamed married couple known only as Mother (Kat Kashefi) and Father (Matthew Blaney). Disowned by her own family because of her pregnancy and who she married, Mother was forced into running a kebab shop with her husband when he bought the shop without consulting her. The play then follows the financial struggles and hardship of the couple, and how Father vents his frustration on Mother, turning his anger to abuse.

This play strikes a balance of power and vulnerability, Mother is timid and soft-spoken most of the time, unless she is pushed too far by Father. It is clear that Father is the one in control within this household, there is no discussion on the decisions made, whether it is the purchase of the shop, what the couples should do and even whether Mother is allowed to take on extra jobs outside of the kebab shop to make ends meet. His own actions on the other hand, never needed explanations and he would justify his actions by saying that these are all for Mother and to make their lives better. These could not be further from the truth as Father is likely having an affair and he also distrusts Mother, going as far as accusing her of infidelity when he discovered her savings. Throughout the story, Father would show glimpses of remorse by apologising for his actions and buying gifts for Mother, which are some of the signs of an abusive and manipulative partner.

There are however, elements which could be expanded to provide the audience with some further context. Mother was trained as a seamstress and appears to have a passion for this, going as far as taking a job in secret against Father’s will. It would have been interesting to explore this, drawing upon the parallels of mending a damaged piece of clothing and her own marriage. Furthermore, it was not explained what she had to do in order to take the seamstress job and how this fuels Father’s distrust and accusations toward her at the end of the play. Following the final incident between Mother and Father, their daughter narrates what happens next and how the couple stayed together despite all the abuse and wrongdoings. There are uncapitalised opportunities to articulate the reasonings for Mother staying in that abusive marriage rather than pressing charges, and how these impacts on not just the couple, but also their daughter and relationships with Mother’s estranged family.

Mother rarely makes direct eye contact with Father, preferring to look down at the floor or elsewhere most of the time, amplifying the fact that she wants to avoid confrontations. However, Kashefi delivers some of the lines too softly, making it difficult to hear what she said even for the audience near the front row in the centre of the auditorium. Blaney towers over Kashefi, fantastically portrays the role of an abusive and remorseless husband, exerting his dominance in both physically explicit and subtle ways. The couples are physically distant and cold toward each other, but when Father presents a gift to Mother, there is a hint of intimacy, which I personally did not find plausible given what the audience members were shown.

This short story pays tribute to home abuse, recognition of its severity and how it can be impossible to escape an abusive situation. The topic presented is pertinent and not discussed nearly as much as it should; thus, this is a welcomed narrative that opens vital conversations.

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