Multidisciplinary theatre company Bold Mellon are making their fringe debut at the Above the Stag Theatre. They bring oranges, fierce visuals, and their heartfelt friendship to the theatre’s cabaret lounge while diving head-on into the queer discussion with their show Searching for Belinda.
Ruby (Emilia Nurmukhametova) and Rose (Amy Mitchell) are best friends. They are as close as can be and it is not seldom that they are mistaken for a couple. But tonight, they are doing what best friends do best – celebrating each other’s achievements. Having performed a superb dance choreography, Ruby and Rose are now off to celebrate. The evening commences and before they know it, they find themselves staring at their reflection in the bathroom mirror while having the most meaningful conversations. It is not long before Rose opens up to Ruby about the highlight of her night: she has worked up the courage to kiss a girl. Surprisingly, her best friends’ confession has Ruby on the brink of frustration and soon we find ourselves amidst a fiery debate about biphobia, labels, and what I would title “bi-ghosting”.
Searching for Belinda feels like a Russian doll that we unpack scene by scene. Three different theatre styles are interwoven with each other in the performance and give insight into different perspectives of queerness – and specifically bisexuality. The girls’ energetic dance choreographies (developed by Maddie Mellon) and frisky projections are followed by poetic monologues, and orange-filled dreams of Rose’s former dance teacher Belinda. And in the centre of it all is the story of Ruby and Rose who are compelled to overcome their bias in order to preserve their friendship and accept each other for who they are.
Frazzled and overdramatised at times, Lucy Penrose’s Searching for Belinda would have much to give if the plot is tightened a little. Although all the different elements of the play inform Ruby and Rose’s journey of self-discovery, they appear disconnected in the way they tell the story. Whilst I enjoy the poetic monologues that give insight into Rose’s emotional revelations, as well as the erotic movement pieces featuring oranges, I believe that the girls’ story needs to be clearer and more organic in the way it unfolds. Open discussions around biphobia and labelling are as relevant as can be, but they need to find their place in the storyline – informed by the context of the play, not born out of the idea that this is what we as audience members should take away from it.
The three different ways of storytelling that are combined in Searching for Belinda make for a lovely piece about friendship and self-discovery within the LGBTQIA+ community. Once it finds its pace and message it has the potential to be a crucial and affirming play about the bi-experience.
Searching for Belinda played at the Above the Stag Theatre on 14 August 2021. For more information visit the Above the Stag website.