“I think it's really beautiful to see what rage and anger can do,” says Masego Pitso, one of the co-leads (alongside Henrietta Enyonam Amevor) in Is God Is, an award-winning tale of retribution running at Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC) from June 19 to July 15.
Drawing on influences as diverse as Afropunk, classic spaghetti westerns, and Greek mythology, the Australian debut of the Obie Award-winning playwright Aleshea Harris’ critically acclaimed drama promises to take audiences on a ride they won’t easily forget.
It sees Pitso and Amevor play twin sisters Racine and Anaia, who have grown up in foster homes with only each other to rely on. When they receive a letter from their long absent mother, they discover she’s dying. But before she goes, there’s something she wants her daughters to do for her.
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“It's an epic tale and it's action packed,” says Amevor. “It’s the mother they never knew they had, asking them to do what may be an impossible task. But then it's also layered with daily life experience and the people they encounter and interact with on the journey. It’s an emotional rollercoaster and so fast paced.”
Though Amevor and Pitso play twins, their characters are far from identical. As the elder sister, Racine has been protecting Anaia all their lives. But when their mother calls, Racine is the one driven by blind loyalty, even if it puts them both at risk.
“She's the go getter twin,” says Pitso of her character. “And she's determined to complete the mission by any means possible.”
Anaia is the more questioning and emotional of the pair. With extensive facial scars, she’s forever aware of how she’s perceived by others. “I think having that constant reminder of what she looks like has caused her to feel deeply, and be focused inward and inside,” says Amevor. “She's constantly thinking about how the world sees her.”
In a serendipitous piece of timing, the two actors were friends before being cast to play twins. “We still don't know when and where we met, but we've known each other for quite a number of years”, says Pitso. “So we resonate with our characters quite a lot – we see ourselves in them. And that just furthers the bond and dynamic. The feelings and emotions you see playing out within the play, we’ve [actually] experienced together.”
Co-directed by Zindzi Okenyo and Shari Sebbens, this production of Is God Is features a cast from the African diaspora – an importance not lost on either actor.
“To be able to be a part of that is insane for me,” says Amevor. “I love the fact it's just different Black people in the room from different walks of life. Everyone's bringing who they are and how they see themselves in the world as Black people to this.”
Pitso agrees. “We often find the way we are perceived outside of ourselves is one dimensional, and that's not the reality,” she says. “We’ve had some incredible conversations in working on this play with Melbourne Theatre Company that shows just how nuanced and beautiful the Black experience is.”
The result is an outlandish and often darkly humorous journey that both actors believe give audiences of all backgrounds plenty to chew on.
“It's an incredible story everyone will be able to take something from and enjoy and grapple with,” says Pitso. “And by grappling, [we mean] grappling with the story, not with your whiteness or Blackness and how it plays out. It's just great to be able to have a beautiful story about real life experiences. Only bigger, because it’s theatre.”
Amevor says just watch it for what it is. “Don't try to have an answer or a stance,” she says. “Take it in for what it is and enjoy.”
Is God Is plays June 19–July 15 at Southbank Theatre, The Sumner. There’s also two cast and crew Q&A nights, on Wednesday June 28 and Monday July 3. See more details and book tickets.
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