Pros: Enthusiastic and charismatic performers add a really striking dynamic to the piece.
Cons: For a decade that lasted ten years (obviously) there was a lot that remained unexplored.
Walking in with neon tutus and the requisite brightly coloured leg-walmers (obligatory in any show about the 80s), Rachel Mars and nat tarrab reveal themselves as an quirky duo at the beginning of The Lady’s not for walking like an Egyptian. One tall and the other short, these ladies perform an 80s-inspired dance to the classic tune Walk like an Egyptian by The Bangles. They both enthusiastically throw themselves from move to move, pulling charismatic faces as they go. It was a good way to start a light-hearted show that nonetheless got more serious – granted very slowly – as it continued.
The premise of the show is that it isn’t actually a finished product. nat tarrab, the elder of the two women (aged 8 when the 80s came around) is unsure if she can do a piece about Margaret Thatcher. Rachel Mars, a mere fetus at the beginning of the decade, tries to convince her that the 80s weren’t that bad. I identified with Rachel Mars’ character. Born in, 1989 I never experienced the 80s firsthand but I look with fondness back at that era and particularly the pop music, much to my boyfriend’s distaste. This play attempts to challenge this. It makes every member of the audience take off their rose-tinted glasses by reminding us about Margaret Thatcher’s devastating effect as Prime Minister.
In particular, this piece focuses on three things: the first is attempting to come to terms with the fact that Thatcher was a woman, a giant achievement for feminism, and yet that many women felt and still feel betrayed by her. The second, her strict beliefs and rules about homosexuality. The third is the devastating effect that her arts and cultural policies had on theatre, non-West End theatre in particular.
Rachel and nat were fantastic performers. While nat brought a certain amount of sincerity to the performance, and the much needed level-headedness required for this show to pack a punch, Rachel was also a very talented and charismatic actor. She carried her half of the piece with ease, providing much of the humour with her perfect comic timing.
The other aspects of the piece were well thought out too: the lights had a pop and fun eighties theme to them (without sacrificing actually lighting the performers) and the set was simple yet very clever. Plastered in three wide strips along the back, running from ceiling to the floor, were a combination of pictures of the only female Prime Minister this country has had, political newspaper headlines and other nondescript articles. This teetered out artistically as they reached the floor, like waves onto a beach. A lovely use for the blackbox space that is Downstairs at the Ovalhouse Theatre. Hanging between these backdrops were two 1980’s business women’s outfits. Even on their hooks, they reminded me of Margaret Thatcher, particularly as they loomed over the performers from above. In addition, the music choices were great. As I mentioned previously, I enjoy the odd 80s ballad, so as the show closed on The Power of Love by Jennifer Rush, I resisted the urge to get up on stage and sign along with Rachel and nat.
As good as this performance was, I felt it lacked a certain narrative needed to carry itself through. I also think it has great potential for development, something I would have liked to have seen a bit more of during the show.
Overall Mars and tarrab have created a snappy piece of theatre that raises a lot of historical (yet still important) questions for all theatre goers. By doing this through a witty dialogue and using their wonderful performance skills, you walk away feeling amused and refreshed rather than dragged down. Ultimately the 80s had some wonderful elements, but as well as enjoying those, these two women would like to just remind you that things weren’t that simple.
Presented by: Rachel Mars and nat tarrab
Box Office: 020 7582 7680
Booking Link: http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson
Booking Until: 23rd November 2013