The Theatreguide.London Review
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs December 2018
This is exactly the sort of play and production the Royal Court should be giving space and support to. I say that even though it is not wholly successful and can only be recommended to those eager to see fresh imagination and inventiveness for its own sake, without demanding clarity or even coherence.
Ellie Kendrick has something to
say, and directors Helen Goalen and Abbi Greenland have ways to say
it. But they are a little more concerned with cleverness than
hourlong play opens with a string of brief scenes
in which women attempt to speak – at least a couple of them about
being attacked – only to have an unseen force stifle them by
turning off their microphone, moving the spotlight or sinking them
into a stage trapdoor.
later in the evening, after a few more
oblique sequences, are you likely to realise that this opening was a
symbolic representation of the way women are silenced or marginalised
in real life.
mode of using an inventive but private and too
often opaque symbolic vocabulary will run through the hour. The six
actresses then emerge from a different hole in the stage and declare
themselves to be the Furies, escaping millennia of imprisonment and
really, really angry.
narrate some Greek myths – Medusa,
Prometheus, Pandora – from a feminist perspective and then announce
that they're going to kill, maim and destroy anyone who gets in their
with the opening section we may get the general point –
women are angry – while much of the specifics remain unclear. And
now things really approach incoherence.
all that accumulated
anger onstage opens a black hole – a real physical imploding star
that sucks up the entire universe until nothing is left but
blackness. Except that a voice in the darkness tells us that stray
surviving atoms are bumping into each other and connecting, and it is
all beginning again.
going to make a leap of faith and say the
message of the play is that societal abuse of women has gone so far
beyond repair that the only solution is to junk it all and start all
over again. But through a combination of private imagery,
insufficient concern for the audience's ability to keep up, and a bit
of self-indulgence, writer and directors haven't really helped very
much with that guesswork.
might be expected from the founders of
the highly inventive physical theatre company RashDash, Goalen and
Greenland fill the hour with striking visual imagery and demand very
physical performances from their actors. There is almost as much
singing, dancing, chanting and structured movement to the hour as
there is speaking.
flash, spotlights roam the stage, one
performer appears briefly in a mirrored dress that turns her into a
walking disco ball, and – perhaps with unfortunate unintended
symbolism – whole sequences are played in the dark.
sense of what is being said comes through is remarkable since so
little of the creative energy of play or production seems devoted to
communication. And so I can't recommend this to the casual
But if you want to see evidence of some of the sorts of theatrical invention that are being explored by creative theatrical artists, even if they don't quite add up to success, you may find much to intrigue you here. And I salute the Royal Court for giving it a platform.
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