Pros: Siobhan McMillan’s charismatic acting style.
Cons: An under developed feminist viewpoint.
Projected on a screen we see YouTube videos of kittens and a woman talking about cat care. She is ShyGirl, a vlogger with just a handful of subscribers who, in front of all of them via webcam, is stood up by the guy she is dating. Drunk and humiliated she conjures up Shivvers, a witch and distant relative of Snow White’s stepmother. Shivvers plunges into the mission of finding (and destroying) any women more beautiful than her after the Magic Mirror (called Tim) informs ShyGirl there are rivals to her beauty.
The first woman that Shivvers encounters in her magical trip is the beautiful and perfect Bitch Face, who is also a man eater – literally. It’s not really clear if Bitch Face is her actual name or if that’s what Shivvers calls her, but obviously some degree of jealousy transpires from the appellative (the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Francis Grose said it was the “most offensive appellation that can be given to an English woman”). The next person she finds on the way is the rich and successful Penelope, followed by a group of ladies addicted to chips and hummus.
The common factor amongst these women is the vulnerability behind their seemingly perfect appearances. They all pay the price of their physical perfection at the expense of their health, whether through eating disorders or neurotic behaviour. Shivvers’ mission is an observational trip rather than an exploratory one. We see women oppressed by manmade standards of beauty and subjected to constant objectification. Rather than challenging these conditions, ShyGirl learns to accept herself as she is, regardless of what others think. Personally I was left with an unquenched interest to delve deeper into the subject from a more originally feminist perspective.
The language in the play emulates that of the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales, full of pomposity and baroque frills. Comic relief is achieved each time some element of modern vocabulary (mainly swear words) is introduced. Though this technique made the audience laugh, and is in itself a clever mockery of the dramatic fairytale style, I think its success is limited by the length of the play. Although barely an hour, it becomes repetitive and once it’s been exploited at the beginning it loses momentum. It’s nonetheless a clever choice as McMillan deconstructs a literary genre which historically is predominated by male authorship.
The strength of the play relies on Siobhan McMillan’s charismatic performance, mixed with elements of physical theatre and audience interaction. Siobhan also succeeds in making hers a relatable story for every woman who’s ever fallen under the tyranny of mirrors – i.e. pretty much every single woman in the capitalist world.
Author: Siobhan McMillan
Director: Gabi Maddocks
Producer: Infinite Space Theatre
Booking Until: 14 April 2018
Box Office: 020 7734 2222
Booking Link: https://leicestersquaretheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873581752