Pros: Some very strong performances, particularly from Sevda Levent as Isabella in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.
Cons: I found it hard to follow what was happening at times. More background information in the programme would have been useful for those of us not familiar with the plays.
The Tristan Bates Theatre is so hidden that I almost missed the entrance. When I arrived I was told to head to the bar to wait for the house to open. However, waiting in the bar – which was full, with nowhere to wait except awkwardly at the door – I can’t say I was overly comfortable. This was made even worse when the show was 15 minutes late starting with no updates on what was going on. At one stage I thought I’d missed the announcement asking people to take their seats.
However I was cheered up by the music playing as people took their seats: it was Portishead’s Glory Box with the lyrics “give me a reason to be a woman”. A nice choice for a show which forms part of the Actors Centre/So & So Arts Club Women in the Arts Festival. Feminism seems to be a particularly prominent issue in the media lately. With over 50,000 submissions on the Everyday Sexism Project website to date and many other debates taking place, this festival comes at the perfect time.
Unfortunately the show itself failed to engage and excite the feminist in me. The show is made up of six scenes from five plays: Dangerous Liaisons, Measure for Measure, Elles, Oleanna and Checkmate. I expected strong female leads with little submission to male characters. However the overriding message I took from the show was in fact that women eventually give in either through choice, persuasion or force, although this could be because I do not know the plays.
I found the show hard to follow with occasional unclear distinction between the scenes. Perhaps if I was more familiar with each of the works being shown this would not have been the case. It was a shame as the quality of the acting was generally very good. The scene from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure included a particularly moving performance from Sevda Levent as she considers giving Angelo her virginity in return for her brother’s life. With real tears and powerful emotion this was the most memorable performance of the night. Unfortunately the rest of the show failed to grip me, and by the fidgetiness of other audience members around me I think they agreed.
There was very little set with just a table, chairs and a chess set, which was used for the final extract from Jessica Ruano’s Checkmate. The lighting was also minimal with simple spotlights. Music was used at first to distinguish between scenes, which worked well. However it was cut off quite abruptly as the scenes started; fading out a bit slower would have been less jarring. The music also stopped being used half way through the show with no clear reason why.
Overall this show did not engage me and I struggled to adapt to each different scene. There were some strong moments from the cast, however I left the theatre feeling slightly unclear on what the overriding message of the show was. Hoping for a sense of empowerment for women in the arts, I was left somewhat disappointed.
Director: Jessica Ruano
Producers: The Actors Centre and So & So Arts Club
Booking Until: 17th December 2013 only
More Information: http://soandsoevents.wix.com/women-in-arts or http://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/