Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Unbound Productions present a compelling new piece of verbatim theatre where an all-male cast tell the stories of real women’s lives.
The show begins with six identical mirrors on stage and six men identically dressed in smart black suits. Word-for-word accounts of moments in the lives of real women take the audience on an insightful journey exploring body image, harassment and outside influences on ‘femininity’.
Travesti’s use of verbatim was an ambitious choice, but in the performance they manage to weave the stories together in such a way that highlights a variety of topics from body hair to sexual assault. Although the company choose to use multiple experiences and opinions they manage to avoid convoluting them by putting plenty of emphasis on each case. The editing of the stories is exceptional and the texts are layered in such a way that the piece never becomes too heavy. Along with the text itself, the company use music and movement cleverly in the piece: full-length mirrors are made into various props such as an ironing board and a kitchen table, and the songs highlight pop culture’s influence on creating a sense of ‘femininity’. This works particularly well when the lyrics echo how the women feel about their own appearances.
A show where six men play women runs the risk of becoming ‘camp’, and also runs the risk of detracting from the different experience between genders. However, the whole cast are sincere in their roles, the humour instead well pointed towards the double standard between male and female behaviour rather than making feminine behaviour comical. Although at first it seems a novelty watching men discussing how long it takes to do their hair in the morning, or how they feel about shaving their legs, you become incredibly used to it. In fact, by the end the cast appear to represent neither male nor female, highlighting the performed nature of gender. The male body speaking the stories of women complicates the idea of ‘female’ and ‘male’ issues being constricted to either gender.
Although the mirrors serve as multiple props they do have the effect of restricting the space, which means that some of the choreography looks a little cramped.
I took my 14-year-old niece along to this show and we both found the storytelling relatable and clear; it is brilliant that this show is able to speak to a wide age range. I feel that gender is an important topic to broach and I commend the company for doing it in such a sensitive and interesting way.