Anoushka Lucas -
Singer, Actor, Composer, Writer, Raconteur
“We are all vibrating together.”
I have come across Anoushka Lucas in two remarkable shows, as Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar in Regent’s Park and as Laurey in the ground breaking Oklahoma at the Young Vic and Wyndham’s. But Elephant is different. This piece is written by her, performed by her with songs she has composed and playing the piano.
The piano makes its entrance into a small council flat in a Victorian terrace near Hammersmith Hospital through the upstairs window when she is seven. This is in itself a feat of determination against the odds. Lylah’s DNA is fascinating. Her mother was the child of a Frenchwoman and a man from Cameroon and her father’s father came from Dorset and his wife was from India. Her French heritage meant she was eligible for a place at the French Lycée in London with lessons taught in French. She won a scholarship there.
Anoushka plays the piano on the revolve as she describes her flat, one bedroom for herself (Lylah) and her sister and the living room as the bedroom for her parents, very cramped as it also houses the piano. Contrast this with the palatial residences of some of her schoolfriends. She says her friends have sitting rooms, drawing rooms, but no one has a word for a room that is a living room, a bedroom and an eating room.
She describes forming a band and meeting Liam a drummer in a romantic interlude. It is when she later goes to the home of another boyfriend, Leo, that we see her terribly patronised by his selfish family and she starts to reflect on the ivory that is in her piano and the destruction and killing of elephants and people in Africa.
This is a seismic shift in the play and she becomes impassioned and strong as she demonstrates the hurt created in this house where she should have been a welcome guest. The boyfriend’s family can’t even congratulate her for going to Oxford, without making a dig at Wadham, her college being left wing. Their old house has five century old wooden beams which the mother says came from very old ships and Lylah realises those ships probably had human cargo.
Earlier in the play Lylah had said her piano was made of mahogany and pictured how it was grown and harvested and transported to Europe. The ivory in the piano has an unspeakable history. The listener to the beauty of the music needs to be aware of its painful, colonial origins.
Lylah’s personal account resonates with the political in a powerful way which helps me understand the impact on her identity and her art. This is an important play which will make you reflect on colonial and ecological injustice.
Written by Anoushka Lucas
Directed by Jess Edwards
Director and joint developer:
Designer: Georgia Wilmot
Video Design: Gillian Tan
Lighting Designer: Laura Howard
Sound Designer: Xana
Running Time: One hour 15 minutes without an interval
Booking to 4th November 2023
The Bush Theatre
Tube Shepherd’s Bush Market
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge
at the Bush Theatre
on 24th October 2023