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Why is John Lennon wearing a Skirt?, Tristan Bates Theatre

Claire Dowie
Directed by Lauren Bracewell
★★★★

Pros: A brilliant script and a superb performance from Joanna Griffin.

Cons: Not necessarily ground-breaking, but who cares when it’s just very good theatre?!

Our Verdict: A top show, certainly advisable that you get your tickets for their next performances!

Courtesy of Local Girl Productions

I must confess to not being particularly familiar to Claire Dowie’s work, much to the annoyance of one of my fellow bloggers! Our latest outing to the Tristan Bates was to see one of her more celebrated works, Why is John Lennon Wearing a Skirt?, a one woman show in this reincarnation by Local Girl Productions. I was slightly concerned that it was described as feminist theatre; in a blatant piece of stereotyping by yours truly, I was expecting it to be an angry rant which, as a man, would have made me feel uncomfortable (I may as well be honest!). As it turns out, I couldn’t have been further from the truth. This was an outstanding production on every level, from Dowie’s wonderful script to an absolute corker of a performance from Joanna Griffin.

The play is about a girl growing up in the 1960s and 70s. At the centre is a female narrator looking back at her adolescence and telling us about her dislike for all things feminine, her fascination with The Beatles, and the challenges she faced as she grew up. Dowie has said that it isn’t necessarily her story, but nonetheless it seems to be based on a reality of some form. I won’t go into the details of the script, but it is brilliantly written. Funny in places, moving in others, it’s a real triumph. For obvious reasons I can’t respond to it from the female perspective, but from where I was sitting I found it to be incredibly though-provoking.

Dowie’s superb script is carried off by a brilliant production. Between them, director Lauren Bracewell and solo-performer Joanna Griffin have nailed it, picking up on all the subtleties of the writing and engaging the audience throughout. Griffin creates a wonderfully human, tongue-in-cheek character which had me in stitches in places. However she also knows exactly when to drop the jokes and move onto more serious and thought-provoking tones. Despite the appearance of informality, this is an immeasurably controlled performance which was nothing short of a delight to watch. It’s no small feat either; ultimately this is a one-woman show, so to keep the audience as engaged as we were for over an hour is a hugely impressive achievement. And if that wasn’t enough she’s constantly changing on stage from skirts, to dresses, to jeans, and even at some point into an army uniform!

I’ve deliberately avoided talking much about the feminist side of the piece throughout this review for a single reason. This is one of those pieces where my personal response to the substance of the play is irrelevant, as everyone will have their own reaction to it. That is one of the best things about it; it’s one of those shows where no matter who you are it will make you think. What I will say however, is that it is a tremendous piece of theatre, and I strongly suggest that you make time to see it when it is performed later this month as part of the Solo Theatre festival at the LOST Theatre.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments in the section below!

Why is John Lennon wearing a Skirt? had one peformance at the Tristan Bates on 25th June 2012. It will return as part of the Solo Theatre Festival at the LOST Theatre on 18th and 19th July 2012. More details and box office: http://www.solotheatrefestival.co.uk/event23.html

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