Camden Fringe 2019
This Scatterjam Theatre production is written by Rachel Causer, directed by Kennedy Bloomer and produced by Lexi Clare. The show tells the story of three women who break free from the roles they’ve been forced to play and start a rebellion against those who put them there.
Three women have found themselves forced to live by the stereotype that a woman can either be a “virgin”, a “mother” or a “whore”. They wake up expecting to live another normal day of micro-aggressions and self-doubt when a strange phenomenon occurs to all of them at exactly 2.16pm. Suddenly they are bigger, they are stronger, they can see more clearly and they find themselves rebelling against everyone and everything that has oppressed them. That is before they end up in a police station cell…
And this is where we meet them. The black box stage of the Tristan Bates theatre has been set up with black chairs on three sides, facing the audience and creating a smaller stage in the middle. On both upper corners of that smaller stage, two microphones have been set up.
One by one the women walk in – Freya (Niamh Watson), a nineteen-year-old girl, wearing a hoodie covered in blood. Then Jenny (Rachel Causer), wearing what used to be a perfect office outfit that is now ripped and covered in mud. And finally Beth (Roisin Bevan), wearing a Debenhams’ nametag and a towel around her shoulders with mascara smudged around her eyes. We can already start imagining what these women are like on a “normal day”.
But today is not a normal day.
After a brief introduction, one after the other, begin to reenact what has led them to this cell. The other two performers take on the roles of supporting characters in each other’s stories and they use the microphones for dramatic effects. The play is very well staged and the direction lifts this intelligent concept and witty writing. All actors have excellent comedic timing and Rachel Causer as Jenny is exceptional – every joke lands brilliantly and she is filling the stage with her attitude and bold performance.
The play is very well written with a clear arc; the first part introduces us to our three protagonists, the second part shows us their journey that has brought them here and the final part concludes what they’ve learned and how their lives will be different from now on. None of them needed to be in that cell, if only they had behaved, but these three women are done taking abuse, oppression and being controlled. They have had it.
A highlight for me was the appearance of a few meta-references, where the characters are suddenly aware that they’re telling a story on a stage for an audience, without actually breaking the fourth wall. Such one is the beginning of the final story where Freya is about to reenact only to be interrupted by the other two performers declaring “the whore” in the microphones. She turns around offended and they all share a moment of “Excuse me?” and “Sorry, I thought we agreed on that.” It is hilarious.
There is perhaps some room for improvement within each of the women’s stories. They are very well written and very funny, but while they try to tackle and break stereotypes they do end up reinforcing some too. For example, Beth, the mother, makes a speech about how movies show struggling single mother’s being saved by magic nannies or (and this is one of my favourite lines) by Robin William’s in drag and how unrealistic this is. But that is pretty much what ends up happening to her.
Another case is how stereotypically some of the male characters are portrayed (especially in Freya’s story). If they were more fleshed out, their roles and influence in these women’s lives would be even more upsetting to watch and their rebellion against them more impactful. That said Steve – the misogynistic co-worker in the first story (brilliantly portrayed by Bevan) was excellent. Although he was exaggerated and gave the audience some great laughs, it was a truthful character and the fact that we had some more backstory about him was perhaps what helped with that. So there is definitely the potential for this play to be longer in order to explore and flesh out these women’s stories more and finish on an even bigger high.
However, this was nonetheless, an excellent 50-minute comedy, well written, well-acted and well-staged. It fulfills its purpose as an entertaining piece of theatre and it may well leave some of the audience thinking and questioning. Congratulations to Scatterjam Theatre and everyone involved in this production for an excellent show piece.