Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Immerse presents Susie Sillett in this one woman show that outlines a young woman’s journey from little girl to woman. Susie admits that she used to look down on other women as weak and responsible for their own position in life, and she believes herself to be unique in that she thinks like a male. Through her extremely personal narrative she unearths the woman she will grow up to be.
A young woman appears in front of us on the small intimate stage and begins to tidy up a large pile of clothes that are scattered everywhere. She chats to us causally, as she picks up each garment folding them and placing them in a pile. She begins by telling us about her childhood as the only girl in amongst three brothers. Brothers that she manipulated, fought with, equalled and outsmarted.
She was one of them – collecting insects, playing computer games, climbing trees – a regular tomboy. With pigtails and glasses she finds her way in school and accepts her place, not as one of the pretty girls but as one of the clever girls. Becoming aware of the awkward reactions she gets from boys, she changes her image to what she considers to be a neutral look. She avoids those teenage games that challenge her femininity and require her to be confident about her looks.
She learns to hide her teenage crushes deep within friendships until university. Now blossoming into a young woman, she experiments with her image and ideas that ripen her individuality and lead her into more adult relationships. She travels to London to surprise a boyfriend and, whilst there, she finds herself in a situation that robs her forever of her coveted innocence. Sillett is a young attractive woman with short cropped blonde hair, who deftly creates a friendly atmosphere – you could easily imagine that you are sitting on the end of her bed whilst she delivers this monologue. At times she’s very funny and she sets herself a calm balanced pace of delivery that allows her to gently feed the anecdotes in. As she talks of her childhood, she’s wistful and naïve, and you can imagine her in the family home fighting her brothers and standing up for herself. Her detailed clumsy experiences as she familairises herself with her first bras is an enlightened moment that any woman can relate to, and brings a knowing smile to my face. Where she shows great insight is when she analyses her own complacency at how she had perceived other women to be. Her sweeping generalisation that feminism caused more problems than it solved and why that is, comes out of the mouth of a girl who has much growing up to do. She describes her belief that other woman were not like her, telling how she thought like a male and was therefore superior to other women, but its not until she experiments with gender roles that her understanding of what it means to be a woman and a feminist is realised. This is a thoughtful piece of writing and Sillett is clearly pushing herself to rise to the challenge of performing this solo. She has appropriately set her tempo and breathes life into a credible piece of work.
The audience is quick to laugh at the amusing moments in her life (of which there are plenty) and she wins them over into her way of being. I particularly enjoy her understanding of her student self and, having found clothing she feel best suits her, she sports it regardless of the weather, enjoying its reaction. You could hear a pin drop as the horror of her London experience unfolds, and it’s the respectful quiet of a friend revealing that she made a series of mistakes that could happen to anyone.
There’s no accompanying soundtrack or clever lighting to assist her and she holds the audience’s attention by being utterly believable in her delivery.
My only criticism is that she allows the audience laughter to die naturally before continuing with her story. Early on in the performance there is the most terrific thunderstorm outside and as we sit under the rooftops of this central hotel venue. It adds to the sense that a lesson is about to be learned by someone who was needing to learn it. A powerful and moving piece for all.