FringeReview Scotland 2019
Josie, Lydia, Nobahar and Olivia were 10 when they met at dance class. From there they grew up, went their own ways and all ended up in the creative industries. This serves as the beginning of a gentle tale until we hear of one being stripped at gun point, ending up unable to commune with her friends, of being locked away whilst finding the therapeutic nature of sewing, of the blog about her therapy and the task that’s made her reconnect with those childhood creative friends. It ended with what we were about to receive. Told through choreography, live sewing, comic interludes and song it has a universal message, hearty warmness but a steely centre that takes this tragic passage of time and theatrically provides an hour of sheer poetic movement which is a kind of warning to us all.
A four handed piece about the terrifying ordeal and survival from it of by a childhood friend, told with her friends’ support and in we enter to the four actors dancing what seems to be a random set of moves not connected to each other. They introduce themselves individually and then take us into their performance piece which they learned when they were 10 years old – the moves were far from random.
It then moved on from that introduction into a well choreographed piece that tells the story of one of them, who was held at gunpoint and told to strip. The ordeal led to her deciding to make her clothes, write a blog through which she achieved some fame, until Harvey Weinstein temporarily wiped her off the Women’s Hour agenda.
The decision to reconnect with her friends and create this show was inspired and allows us to wallow in the feeling of how we should or would react if we were one of their four.
At the end of the piece they allow us to hear some of the reviews and reactions to their piece and stole all my clichés…
I am a man. I am a father. I have five daughters. I am not of their gender, age or experience so why did it truly speak to me?
The answers are fairly straightforward but come from a complex sense of how they have put together an amazing piece of theatre. It is disparate, confusing, layered and frustrating throughout, until the end. At that point the strands, like a neatly woven cloth are brought into focus and we get the answer to why our emotional responses have been so beautifully ticked, tagged and touched. The denouement of hope is brought about because the choreography, the costume, the song and the performance of it all are of such an integrated and balanced quality that we have nowhere to escape to but to confront what it personally means to us.
It has been seldom that I have been so moved and at times I felt like I was going to explode out of impatience because I wanted there to be a point, to be a poignancy and a particular process that would make it make sense. The elements stood on their own but there was a connection which I was not getting until the end.
Then I clicked and realized that the dance provided that point – they all, despite not all being dance artists, have that fluency of movement that comes with being known and familiar to each other.
The storyline carries that poignancy because you cannot escape the normality of a sewing machine – almost the escape to a past it presents – and how it sits in the jumble of emotion that is being poured out.
The process of the songs and the screams leave you feeling conflicted because it is a scream, the songs are beautifully sung and the collective use their message to underline emotion rather than narrative plot points makes collective images that float the fear and make you part of it.
And then came the ending. The whole reason for the show.
We get the putting on of 4 dresses made by our survivor for her and her three friends. With no real reason to so do except to allow therapy to wash over her, they are given with love for this very ending. They are beautiful, celebratory and made as if their wearers are going out so they make you feel special and feel all right with your world.
The reasons she has for getting dressed, keeping a blog, making the contact to dig herself out of her despair and the end result being an award winning piece of theatre that still crackles, cackles and creates hope is the point.
Technically it was close to flawless though moving and shifting things, throwing things out the way can be finicky. The lighting and asking us to close our eyes – I never do – my bad! – illuminates what we need to see and the music and soundscape is excellent though at one point I strained to hear but once my ears adjusted I was fine.
It was the discordance that was the poignancy, it was the point and I could connect it without worrying I was not getting it.
This is an ensemble piece at its best so all four performers have found equality within it. This is a piece that carries no health warning but is an emotional tonic. This is an hour that should be sought after and enjoyed with fear, hope and just a little sprinkle of awe for the simple way in which it hits you right above your clichés.