A girl and her piano. That is all.

Elephant at the Bush Theatre is a remarkable story about a girl finding her voice in a white middle-class world.

Credit: Henri T

Singer, Songwriter, Actress, Composer, Writer. Anoushka Lucas has it all. Her recent play, Elephant, is a Bush commission and first appeared as part of the Bush’s Protest series of videos in 2020, a response to the murder of George Floyd. I feel that – unfortunately – it has not lost relevance since.  

When Lylah is 7, a piano comes through the sky to occupy the majority of the living room in their council flat – not on an estate. Lylah is instantly fascinated by the 88 keys (52 white and 36 black, as we learn) that resonate sound and make our bodies move. She is from a mixed cultural background with grandparents from Cameroon, India, France and… Dorset. Due to her family-situation and her good grades, she can attend a Lycee Francais in London on a scholarship. Lylah is adamant to fit in, speaking French during class and English on the playground. In the course of the play, Lucas tells her story by flitting through different stages of Lylah’s life, jumping from scene to scene with changes in voice and body language and, of course, the style and capability in which she plays the piano. We meet a couple of producers with her in 2015 – Lylah is 26 and her first song plays on the radio. We meet Leo, the drummer that sparks a new interest in her. We go back to her school days and hear about Lylah’s first encounters with racism and find ourselves in 2017, when Lylah is rejected by producers for not being “urban” enough, getting asked to be less theatrical and lose her posh way of speaking. All while hitting a low in her relationship over gaps that the majority of the population is unaware (or ignorant?) of.

When Lylah asks her piano “Where did you come from? Why are you here?” the story of the Elephant gets a second layer. We hear stories about how the mahogany corpus of the piano is neatly tied to the history of slavery and how the ivory is gruesome evidence of humanity’s exploitation of nature. And how racism, colonialism and class are still deeply embedded in today’s society. It is the constant movement between eras that kept me on my toes. It is the elegance of how the different themes are woven into the story that makes me question some of my own perceptions on the spot.

Credit: Henri T

Lucas brilliantly portrays Lylah, as she lets us see a glimpse into her world, her struggles and her emancipation. I was deeply impressed by the variety of accents and voices she used to bring different characters on the journey of Lylah’s life. The songs she composed gave me goosebumps. I love that Lucas prompted that for following productions original songs have to be composed each time and that Lylah needs to be played by a pianist.

Elephant at the Bush Theatre is a wonderful performance full of theatrical talent, unique vocals and admirable skills on the piano that make me wish I had not abandoned lessons when I was younger.  

Rating: 4 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

2 Star Review 3 Star Review 4 Star Review 5 Star Review 2022 2023 Adaptation Almeida Cabaret Camden Fringe Cast Announcement Christmas Comedy Dance Drag Edinburgh Fringe Edinburgh Fringe Interviews Fringe Immersive Interviews Jukebox Musical LGBTQIA+ Lyric Hammersmith Manchester Musical New Musical News New Wimbledon Theatre North West Off West End Park Theatre Play Review Revival Richmond Theatre Round Up Royal Court Theatre Shakespeare Show Announcement Show Recommendations Soho Theatre Southwark Playhouse Touring Production VAULT Festival West End

    Spine-tingling yet heart-warming, Mark Gatiss’s retelling of A Christmas Carol truly encapsulates the haunting atmosphere of a Victorian ghost story, balanced out with enough humour so as to capture the festive season. Led by Keith Allen as Scrooge, with Peter Forbes as Marley, this show is perfect for Christmas viewing. The set design by Paul Wills is instantly captivating, containing stacks of metal cabinets towering over the theatre, moveable by the cast to allow space for other central props like doors, beds and tables. In addition to this, the puppetry design by Matthew Forbes is incredibly clever, adding creepy elements to the show such … More A CHRISTMAS CAROL – REVIEW – ALEXANDRA PALACE
    The title of this winner of Theatre 503’s 2023 International Playwriting Award by Roxy Cook may seem like the set-up to a joke, but the narrative that unspools is instead an affectionate, gently barbed and at base quite sobering portrait of three ordinary souls (and one restless feline) adrift in modern Moscow. There is much affable, satirical back-and-forth commentary on the accepted myths & stereotypes of the Russian spirit & soul. Beset by the indignities of age, opportunism, graft, fatigue, the characters orbit one another, doomed to play out their roles in an unjust, predatory and saturnine universe. The play opens … More A WOMAN WALKS INTO A BANK – REVIEW – THEATRE503
    Peter Pan Goes Wrong first premiered in London at the Pleasance Theatre in 2013, and earlier this year the show made its Broadway debut. Now the production is back in the West End for the Christmas season. Following on from The Play That Goes Wrong, in this production, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is staged by the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society and goes awry, disastrously so. The meta-comedy is filled with slapstick comedy, sometimes the humour may be predictable and silly, but it’s universally funny throughout – there is something for everyone here, and the laughs come thick and fast … More PETER PAN GOES WRONG – REVIEW – LYRIC THEATRE
    Drawing heavily from the classic canon of the British supernatural, High Tide’s trio of contemporary Gothic narratives uses traditional storytelling formats to address contemporary themes. Directed by Elayce Ismail, reverent musical interludes accompany tales of apparitions and nighttime conjurings that speak of women from the East of England. Unfortunately, the effect is less chilling and more lightweight, with conventional structures, predictable plot twists and an over-reliance on external forces to drive narrative shoring up some of the less relatable aspects of the genre. Nicola Werenowska’s The Beach House, perhaps the cleanest of the three tales, tells of a mother and … More GHOST STORIES BY CANDLELIGHT – REVIEW – SAM WANAMAKER PLAYHOUSE
    Drum roll please…(Cue a literal drum rolling across the stage.) The Lyric pantomime is one of traditions with the return of many well-loved jokes and skits. Costumes and sets are all made at the Lyric itself by Good Teeth, with set pieces being reused year on year. This year Cinderella gets the Hammersmith makeover, with some success. The costuming is fun and vibrant, with the ugly stepsisters’ equine pyjamas and hoop-skirted ball gowns giving all the wrong kinds of extra you need for those characters. Cinderella’s on stage dress transformation is magical and really well-timed. The Dame, Lady Jelly-Bottom’s, outfits … More CINDERELLA – REVIEW – LYRIC HAMMERSMITH

Leave a Reply