Edinburgh Fringe 2015
“A partly verbatim piece based on interviews with teenagers and set to song.”
Broken Windows explores what it is to be young and female today. Written by Caitlin Ince and performed by Ince and Owen Jenkins, the piece is partly verbatim and set to music composed by BBC 2 Young Soloist, Matthew White.
Ince inspiration to create this piece came from her reading of Caitlin Moran’s book, How to Be a Woman and Moran’s equation of Broken Window theory with everyday sexism. While the interviews with the young women form the backbone of the piece, Caitlin’s own story is what makes this stand out. Her attempt to form a coherent feminine narrative, her growing sense of anger at everyday sexism but also her realisation that those she interviewed can’t be easily defined makes the piece feel raw and fresh. She doesn’t pretend to have answered the question originally posed. More, what is shown seems like the beginning of a journey into modern feminism.
All of this is delivered with a great upbeat tone, not-least due to the fabulous music. There’s a joyful singalong beginning which sets a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere that continues throughout the piece. Every chance for well-observed comedy and lighter moments are seized upon with song and playfulness.
Caitlin Ince is immediately engaging, choosing for her dialogue to be performed by Matthew White while she takes on the various roles of the young women she has interviewed. Her range is impressive, bringing each interviewee alive and making them distinct through astute observation that has captured their various idiosyncrasies. Her reclamation of her voice and final revelations are brought home with great feeling, which moved the audience, as many expressed after the show.
Along with White, Ince shares the stage with Owen Jenkins who plays additional roles with great comic wit. He offers some light relief and, in addition to the musical elements, works to broaden the appeal of what might have felt heavy going. His depiction of a nursery child is delightful, as is his knowingly playful take on a bus driver. In quieter moments his unwavering support of and focus on Ince worked to build the tension.
While the final revelation was emotive, the very last beat between Ince and Jenkins felt somewhat overwritten. It might have been felt that this is that this was needed to offer a sense of resolution for Ince. Yet, that Ince knew less than when she started is important. Her strength in vocalising vulnerability might be a strong enough resolution in itself.
This piece is magical and, like all great verbatim work, the devil is in the detail. The everyday and known, when observed closely becomes unique and complex. These are women with something to say. They know about feminism, objectification, gender stereotypes and aspiration. They’re angry and they’re insecure but they believe that things are getting better, slowly but surely.
This is an optimistic piece by an artist with a future in storytelling. Through exploring the worlds of young women met by chance she has stumbled on something important. Only by first addressing the smaller broken windows of life can we then tackle smashing through the glass ceiling.