Sabrina Mahfouz’s women characters are always fully-formed: tough as steel, but warm, funny and passionate. She’s one of the boldest and best young writers around- her brilliant Chef which was about rehabilitation and soul food deservedly won a Fringe First in 2014, and her recent PPP play Clean garnered great critical acclaim, focusing on three women and their adventures in crime.
The Love I Feel Is Red though is one of her most raw. The seemingly disparate parallel monologues of two women -posh, gushy ex-swimming instructor Susan (Heather Williams) and young parkour enthusiast Mona (Janet Etuk) combine, through the love of Ty, Susan’s son and Mona’s lover, who has recently been killed in an accident.
Mona was pregnant, but fearing her relationship with impetuous but gifted Ty wouldn’t last, had an early termination. Susan, falling apart through grief for her only son, is so desperate to hold on to what’s left of him in the form of a grandchild that she cannot- will not-accept the news .
Blood and water are the recurring themes- blood may be thicker, but water revives. Susan, baking all her love into cookies, cannot see how Mona could take a life. Mona cannot grasp how Susan never saw her son’s flaws.
“The taste of a decision” is still bitter on Mona’s tongue- but Susan has her own regrets, which unravel in heartbreaking ways. All of Mahfouz’s characteristic traits are to the fore here- two wonderful actors and a beautiful, lyrical script which cuts to the heart of femininity, of “always being on the edge”.Nel Crouch’s stunning, energetic direction means you are with them every step of the way.
A powerful, beautiful play which will stay with you for a long time.
Photos of Janet Etuk and Heather Williams by Leslie Black
A co-production with Tobacco Factory, this goes on to Bristol from May 16th-22nd.