The bond between twins is one well documented in popular culture, from Twelfth Night to The Parent Trap. Now receiving its UK premiere at the Royal Court, Aleshea Harris’s Is God Is explores the topic once more, telling the story of two sisters forged in violence. First staged in the US in 2018, it earned rave reviews and multiple awards; under Ola Ince’s direction, it is easy to see why. A show of contrasts, Is God Is rolls farce, revenge thriller and western drama into one. A theatre production that has the audience gasping aloud in genuine shock is a rare thing, but Is God Is achieves it (and then some).
As the lights go down, flames burst from the stage, with two figures writhing on the floor. They’re (non-identical) 21-year-old twins Racine (Tamara Lawrance) and Anaia (Adelayo Adedayo), living together in the southern US. Racine is the louder sister, while Anaia is chastised for being emotional “like a lil bish”, something she denies with a scowl. But for their differences, they share mannerisms, a southern drawl and the same scars on their bodies. Lawrance and Adedayo are phenomenally strong actors, unafraid to let the other shine, while also knowing that, as bickering siblings, that spotlight has to be snatched back.
The girls’ scars come from a fire when they were young that killed their mother, a figure they call “God” (“Well she made us, didn’t she?” Racine says). They’ve defiantly lived their lives as orphaned outlaws, until, almost 20 years later, Racine receives a letter from God herself, asking to see them. She (Cecilia Noble) is wheeled in to prophesy from her hospital bed, her scar-covered “body like uh alligator”, imaginatively executed by the stellar make-up team. God calls on the girls in a sonorous voice to make the man who did this to her “real dead” – although she adds that “lotsa blood is fine”.
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