Brighton Fringe 2015
Mata Hari was an exotic dancer and courtesan who was convicted of spying for Germany during World War One and executed by a French firing squad on the 15th October 1917.
The story of Mata Hari who was shot as a spy in the First World War is fascinating and is told here in a very original way. There is much interaction with the audience by Laura Danielle Sharp who plays Margaretha Gertrude Zelle MacLeod otherwise known as Mata Hari. On a simple but effective set we hear about her childhood, about her disastrous marriage and unhappy life in Indonesia. She tells us how she ended up in Paris to become a famous dancer and recruited by French intelligence before being shot as a spy but this was not just a simple telling of Mata Hari’s story. When the audience enter they see Mata Hari lying on the ground but as the play starts it seems as if it has ended before it restarts with Laura Danielle Sharp talking directly to the audience and getting them to be involved in the play. If that sounds confusing just go and see the play. This is a lovely performance by a young actress with a very expressive face. It is full of energy, movement and well spoken. She interacts beautifully with the audience making everyone feel part of the performance and gives an insight into the character of Mata Hari. Direction by Alice Robinson is very tight and there is constant movement throughout the play with never a dull moment. The writer is Abi Hynes. In one hour it is hard to portray the whole of Mata Hari’s life but this gives a look at the story of someone many people have heard of but know nothing about. A couple of minor quibbles are that although she mentions her love of officers I don’t think it was emphasised that she also slept with many high ranking government ministers. I also feel that the fact she was such a superstar could have been expanded on. I also felt that the voice describing the trial could have been a male voice as it was men who unjustly condemned her but these are minor quibbles. The question of was she really a spy and on what grounds was she arrested is not answered. In the play Mata Hari denies she was a spy but doesn’t really give any evidence for why she wasn’t a spy. Why was the French government so intent to convict her? There are many mysteries surrounding Mata Hari’s life and I think answering these would add depth to the play. It is definitely a solo show worth going to see especially for Laura Danielle Sharps intriguing performance describing Mata Hari’s voyage from innocent girl to famous exotic dancer to denying her ageing body and finally being shot. She is a very talented actress.