Edinburgh Fringe 2018
A beautifully rendered, essential play, exploring the role of male domination, misinformation, sexual abuse, and age discrimination through the lens of the past but contrasted with moments drawn from the modern day.
Three women await a dark fate within the confines of the church, discussing the fragility of their male accusers, the necessity of their male counterparts, and the injustice of their male dominated existences. It is the 1600s and these three women, of three distinctly different ages and statuses share the same path to the flames, having been accused and convicted without judge or jury as witches. Aided by a simple, austere bench contrasted with the indulgent trappings of the church, a stain glass window and an ornate but imposing silver wooden door, augmented by a transcendent soundscape of ethereal music played live on singing bowls and percussion instruments accomplished by a virtual siren whose appearance is so otherworldly as to make it appear she herself is the embodiment of the divine feminine which our wayward women discuss at length, Sisterhood spreads out before us, gently yet relentlessly unfolding, encompassing the female experience of domination and subjugation under male control.
At its core Sisterhood is a superbly written, intelligent, and essential play, masterfully portrayed by its three actresses, exploring the role of male domination, misinformation, sexual abuse, and age discrimination through the lens of the past but contrasted with moments drawn from the modern day. This feat of time travel is accomplished fluidly if not entirely seamlessly with the use of projections, black light paint, and yarn which transforms not only the actors but the entire stage, allowing the audience to see the connection between past and present. Rather than jarring the audience from the action of the play, these moments out of time and space feel natural, representing both the connectedness of women through the womb, the very seat of women’s power, but also shining a light on the very short distance we have traveled between the past and present.
The text of Sisterhood is absolutely gorgeous. With unhurried pacing, and shared moments of levity, grace, and conspiracy, our three women explore the offenses which have brought them together. I would venture to say that this is one of the best play scripts I’ve seen at the Fringe, and I was moved beyond speech by the end with the raw, potent truth of the narrative, revealing moment upon moment offenses so familiar as to feel almost commonplace to a modern viewer, and we realize the curses, prayers, and spells which these women have cast are nothing more than the wishes, wants, and desires of all women, turned against them by the priest whose power rests in his ability to suppress. Exploring the seat of women’s power, one of the women describes her postmenopausal power of invisibility not as the curse we see today but as a freedom to go where she wants and do as she pleases. Themes such as women’s prescribed roles as wife and mother and diminished role after child rearing as “empty nester” or even “spinster” are explored through thoughtful, insightful, and ultimately heartbreaking dialogue and personal anecdotes.
Brilliantly nuanced performances augment what is already a beautifully rendered, artful narrative, exploring the absence of the divine mother in the Christian myth, as these women create their own holy trinity spending their last moments praying to the mother Mary in their own metaphorical Communion.
It is clear that every element of this production was considered, save for one and it is my only complaint. I believe that this production may have mistaken their mission for their marketing and for that I cried a silent scream because this is a piece of theatre and in fact a communal experience that deserves an audience, one which this reviewer freely admits she almost missed. I would dare to call it essential.