With an already surprisingly cavalier title, Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man that used to hit her) chooses a remarkably upbeat tone to begin a show grappling with such an intense topic. However, Angelina Chudi as the titular Patricia handles this dilemma deftly. She is an effortlessly charismatic and instantly charming actress. We are immediately won over as she (understandably) anxiously addresses us while getting ready for a dinner with her abusive ex-partner. Although undeniably a product of Chudi’s acting, Patricia’s relatability is also thanks to Martha Watson Allpress’s skilful writing.
Allpress displays a great talent for crafting believable and recognisable dialogue. Patricia feels so real as she agonises over the missed opportunity to give her ex the dressing down he deserves following their run-in, instead awkwardly saying “hi” three times in a panic. The relatability of a ‘cringe’ encounter like this is underscored by the bleak reasons for our protagonist’s panic. It’s a moment of full humour, weighed down with a serious darkness. We see Patricia as quirky and light, but the cracks begin to show, and we soon realise that her habit of defining words is really a coping device which has blossomed from a need to be understood. This is an interesting technique that, unfortunately, isn’t highlighted as it should be.
There are actually a number of moments in this show where it feels something important could have been better highlighted, or an interesting tone could be struck, but instead is brushed aside. It’s possible this is first show jitters, although Chudi seems so comfortable in front of an audience that seems hard to believe. It does appear symptomatic of a show that doesn’t quite know what it’s trying to say. Patricia’s statement at the end, saying that victims of abuse can’t be stereotyped, seems to position itself as a thesis, but it comes unexpectedly out of the blue: we don’t know if she herself fits the mould or not. Before that moment, we don’t see her grapple with her identity as a victim of abuse or learn that she’s ever thought she could be a victim herself. She says abuse can affect a ‘waitress or CEO’, but this is a stark reminder that we know so little about Patricia’s history, and which role she’s closer to. About halfway through the show, I thought we might be building up to a culmination of Patricia’s fight to be believed, to have her abuse understood: she memorises so many definitions to that end after all, but then it never bears fruit. The audience believes Patricia from the get-go and Patricia’s mother’s very sympathetic reaction to learning about the abuse is the only one we hear so we have no other context in which to judge how this abuse, or a lack of understanding of it, has affected or changed Patricia’s life.
There is power in Patricia Gets Ready. I felt it when Patricia repeats “when someone you love hits you, it hurts”. There is an incredible story in someone deciding to face their abuser to try to regain power, to try and make them hear their truth. However, this production seems to lose momentum as it considers what to say. It’s an excellent show to get a conversation started though, and with Chudi’s acting chops and Allpress’s deft hand at finding the absurdity in darkness, I’m excited to see what happens to it next.
Written by: Martha Watson Appress
Directed by: Kaleya Baxe
Produced by: Khai
Booking Link: https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/patricia-gets-ready-for-a-date-with-the-man-that-used-to-hit-her/
Booking Until: 9 February 2020