by Joe McGuffog
It was less about not feeling 'in-place' and more about feeling incomplete for me
Displacement, the feeling of not belonging somewhere, for some of us is one of our deepest and most privately held emotions. Everyone has a desire for a home; somewhere to put their own perspective into context.
What happens though when you have two ‘homes’? Two cultures to call your own?
"It was less about not feeling 'in-place' and more about feeling incomplete for me," explains luxx. After seeing no representation of Arab people beyond 9/11 and the Syrian civil war in 2011, four years ago she began to spend most of her time in the Middle East, “in order to feel more whole, and to wash the UK's portrayal of my rootlands from my eyes."
An orphan of Syrian heritage Eating the Copper Apple begins with a love story to her blood and history, as luxx’s father takes a flight over the crescent moon, from Damascus to the Jazz clubs of 1980’s Leeds.
‘Plucked’ by the state at birth, her thick Yorkshire accent might throw you at first. It rumbles, growls. You feel the struggle for her identity slipping out, all to an ethereal score composed by Lebanese sound designer Nour Sokhon.
When the score is low, luxx compliments the harmonies with her poetic percussion. When she sings and the score rises, it carries the melody, drawing us in like a true middle eastern storyteller. You can feel the kilometers travelled, woven into her words.
It’s not until we learn about her stint in foster care that the pieces of her life begin to come together. Subsequently, under the guardianship of Renel, a West Indian woman living in Bradford, her longing for a home becomes apparent. ‘So, I’m West Indian now’ is maybe the most heartbreaking and simultaneously heart-warming line in the whole performance.
Renel is caring. She looks after little lisa but she is not allowed to be called Mum. The only picture she has left of Renel is of her torso, sidestepped away in a crushing display of personal boundaries - a theme that runs throughout the performance.
Being exposed to that kind of rejection at such a young age is hard to comprehend, even though she is eventually adopted by a Lebanese man and woman from Leeds.
Reunited with her sister, she has a longing to know who she is - and who she was. “Since school I remember feeling a part of me must be such a secret - a taboo - that it was even hidden from me” says luxx. To see the tree from which she was plucked, the famed copper mirrors of Arabia her ancestors brushed into.
Each stroke revealed in the mirror’s reflection is a tiny detail of her performance: a brush showing us who lisa luxx is. She takes us through thoughts, conversations, soundbites, perfectly executed 4th wall breaks that layer to create a copper apple, a reflection of everything it means for her to be.
By the time she arrives in Lebanon, Syria is in turmoil - she feels she must reach Damascus. The language comes easy - she falls in love. Hiding her kisses from the police, because homosexuality is still illegal, just adds to the frantic struggle to get over the border.
I don’t want to spoil the ending. It truly is a fantastic body of work, not only for those who also have two cultural identities, two countries beneath their skin, but for those who want to understand the struggle of immigrants, their children, and the wider impact of displacement because of war, poverty but also love.
"Bombs are not normal anywhere in the world." lisa tells me. "Warfare, obliteration of heritage, and threatening military public presence should not be normalized anywhere. The UK and US governments, and therefore the taxpayers of those countries, are the cogs of the war machine. If your country has blood on its hands, it is your duty to do your research because resistance from Western citizens is profoundly valuable; economic resistance being the most powerful".
It is important that those of mixed heritage tell these stories, share their culture unashamedly, and be free to explore and experiment with who they are, free from persecution. Though unique, lisa’s is a story made up of the same parts as millions of other mixed heritage people. The honest ferocity she tells hers with makes her show essential viewing.
Eating the Copper Apple will tour again in 2022. Catch lisa on a book tour of her novel, Fetch Your Mother’s Heart, in autumn.