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Credit: Ali Wright
Credit: Ali Wright

Her Not Him, Theatre 503 – Review

Pros: This is a very funny and watchable production, but one which also poses pertinent questions about identity, societal labels and sexuality.

Cons: At times, scenes are repetitive and don’t offer as much depth as they might. This feels largely due to Her Not Him’s concise running time; a lot of the issues raised, along with the characters themselves, are not fully fleshed out.

Pros: This is a very funny and watchable production, but one which also poses pertinent questions about identity, societal labels and sexuality. Cons: At times, scenes are repetitive and don’t offer as much depth as they might. This feels largely due to Her Not Him’s concise running time; a lot of the issues raised, along with the characters themselves, are not fully fleshed out. Her Not Him is a play of separate moving parts. I’m not just referring to its stripped down set, which is manoeuvred throughout the production, and which keeps the compact space of Battersea’s Theatre503 in a state…

Summary

Rating

Good

A play full of promise, featuring some excellent writing and skillful performances, but which cannot fully realise its potential within its concise 70-minute running time.

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Her Not Him is a play of separate moving parts. I’m not just referring to its stripped down set, which is manoeuvred throughout the production, and which keeps the compact space of Battersea’s Theatre503 in a state of constant flux. The needs and desires of the play’s three characters – Bea, Ellie and Jamie/Jemima – also shift throughout, at times inextricably bound together and at other times firmly at odds. Bea, an older woman, is in a relatively okay relationship with Ellie, who is several years her junior. But a chance encounter with Jemima, a transvestite who has crashed her sterile birthday party, draws Bea away from a heartbroken Ellie and into less familiar territory.

Disappointingly, the play’s running time of 70 minutes doesn’t really allow for any of the relationships to develop in a meaningful way. Nor do we have enough time to get to know the characters at all well, and as such it’s not easy to like them. Ellie regularly hints at some repugnant gender political attitudes, referring to Jemima as a ‘ladyboy’, ‘tranny’, or simply as a ‘person’, though she spits the latter with such venom that it eclipses the former two. Bea, despite some superficial guilt, happily strings two people along at once, while Jemima/Jamie is quite happy to form one corner of this love triangle, despite knowing that this will destroy Bea’s other, longer-term, relationship. Having said that, the cast do bring a warmth and sincerity to each role – Orla Sanders as Bea delivers an especially precise performance – which prevent them from being totally unlikeable.

Her Not Him lives up to its own billing as a “comedy drama”. There are a few superb jokes and its humour is, perhaps unexpectedly, its strongest element. At times, it felt like I was watching a more intense and somewhat less conventional episode of Peep Show, just without the Point Of View camera angles. Her Not Him does, however, have its own distinct visual aesthetic which for the most part works well. Inevitably, with such a minimal set, there is a certain degree of repetition no matter how often it is rearranged; variations in lighting state are infrequent, giving most scenes a bland backdrop, while the actors’ pseudo-graceful movement of furniture during scene changes verges on being silly.

The exploration of people’s need of labels, especially those relating to gender and sexuality, is brought to the fore effectively in Her Not Him. The show draws attention to the fact that, despite living in an ever more progressive society (particularly in London), two people can still find themselves in a relationship where they struggle even to find the language to reflect on it. Bea’s questioning of Jemima/Jamie’s sexual identity and inability to understand it fully, not helped by Jamie’s inability to articulate it, is a perfect example of this.

It’s a rare thing to come out of a play wishing it had been longer. Joanne Fitzgerald’s first full-length play is not only entertaining, but also raises some interesting questions about identity. Unfortunately, its brief running time means Her Not Him can’t begin to answer them – but perhaps that’s the point.

Author: Joanne Fitzgerald
Director: Amy Lawrence
Producer: Lughnacy Productions & Theatre503
Box Office: 020 7978 7040
Booking Link: https://theatre503.com/whats-on/her-not-him/
Booking Until: 3rd February 2018

About Hugo Nicholson

Hugo Nicholson
Hugo is an actor, producer and competitive stone skimmer from County Durham. A highlight of his career post-university was working as a scarer in the basement Madame Tussauds, where his ghoulishness was such that he was more than once struck hard in the face by tourists, and forced to call an emergency stop. He now spends his time above ground, watching theatre and often writing about it.