Pros: The author is clearly passionate about her chosen subject and employs a variety of inventive tools to explore it.
Cons: A little clumsy in its presentation and at times possibly naïve. The characters were a little clichéd.
The Etcetera Theatre, upstairs at The Oxford Arms in Camden, is a stalwart venue for the Camden Fringe Festival and plays host to The Monotonous Drum amongst many other shows this year.
The author Sophie Porter wrote the piece after experiencing much harassment after expressing her opinion about UKIPs recent rise in popularity. The premise, as I understood it, was to clarify the terms feminism and equality. Feminism has become misunderstood and is often mistaken to mean women who hate men, and it can be used as in a derogatory manner.
In an attempt to illustrate the misuse of the word feminism this production is an experimental piece employing various tools and methods. There is projected film footage of a young man talking about his being bullied at school and his mother’s gift of a pet rat; footage of a young man who went on to massacre a group of college girls in the US; and the use of four actresses to represent different life stages of women – the know-it-all teenager, the angry mid-20s, the middle aged married mother and the mature woman (Melody Ashman, Helena Christie, Clare Almond, Fleur Poad). The variety of ages, and therefore experiences, allows for dialogue exploring differing viewpoints. They are joined on stage, albeit only in a computerised version, by a male character (Paul Shears). His head is projected onto the back wall of the stage and appears to have an interactive conversation with the women; his provocative views serve to trigger reactions in the women.
For me, the omission of the women’s movement of the 1960s when the term feminism was coined, and the even earlier suffragette movement felt strange. It would have fleshed out the subject and provided historical context. There were character weaknesses, in particular the married mother seemed rather dated, like something from the Stepford Wives, and so didn’t ring true.
It’s an interesting piece but for my money it needs more work. I take my hat off to the author for her passion but it seems a rather clumsy piece of work in its current form. That said, surely one of the aims of a theatre festival is to provide a platform for new and evolving pieces. After all, every show has to start somewhere before being revised and refined, assuming it has a strong enough message or story to tell. The performers and author gathered on stage afterwards for a relaxed Q&A session, which was fun and helpful in discovering how the work had evolved and showed their commitment and enthusiasm. It may not be the greatest piece of theatre but if the audience depart with food for thought and topics to be discussed (which my theatre buddy and I did) then the author has succeeded to some degree.
This show has finished its run. Further information can be found at http://themintycrimples.com/
Author: Sophie Porter.
Director: Paul Shears.
Producer: The Minty Crimples.