Pros: The out-of-the-box plot and gripping performance.
Cons: The audio during the projections wasn’t loud enough.
Under My Thumb is a compelling play depicting a bleak reality. It focuses on violence perpetrated against women and does it by showing women being violent with each other, in a secluded environment in which men don’t feature. Mentioned only as “them”, men belong to the outside world, which they rule by imposing their sexist views.
For this reason, the six young women we see on the stage are voluntarily confined in a small basement cellar, where the only furniture is represented by a pile of empty bin bags and rations come through a hatch. Inside, they’re not allowed frills and their blue and grey uniforms are stained and ragged, much like the bare skin of their arms and legs.
We hear that many other women are detained in the same institution, all having deliberately opted for imprisonment rather than taking the risk to face again their perpetrators. The truth about the girls and the specific reasons why they’re locked up unfold little by little. Some of the stories are delivered in the form of video recordings projected on the back wall. They help us to understand the plot, but the audio quality is too poor to allow them to make a proper impact.
When the play starts, the group leader Hattie (Charlotte Green) is instigating a brawl between the vicious Sam (Cassandra Hercules) and the more reserved Nev (Jessica Aquilina), her argument being that it is only through learning to fight against each other that they will be ready, one day, to fight against “them”. The balance within the group, though, starts swaying when the newcomer Ree (Serin Ibrahim) questions her inmates’ choices and urges them to confront their own demons. The veteran Lily (Alice De-Warrenne) and the coy Rosaline (Ketorah Williams) are ready to listen, and this leads the play towards a controversial ending.
Excellent in emphasising the cast’s charismatic and emotional delivery, director James Haddrell squeezes the script to get out all its dramatic tension. Nonetheless, some passages of Cassiah Joski-Jethi’s work remain obscure. The viewer might find the implications and metaphors embedded in Under My Thumb quite challenging, but is bound to enjoy its outside-the-box plot and unmissable performances.
Author: Cassiah Joski-Jethi
Director: James Haddrell
Producer: CultureClash Theatre and Greenwich Theatre
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.