Written and Directed by Yasir Senna Rumble! is set in 2009, in the midst of a recession, where protagonist Alisha Harper-Gil finds herself facing disciplinary action instigated by her male bosses. The play attempts to raise up women whilst belittling its gross male characters.
The 60-minute first act begins with multiple short and snappy scenes, too many different locations and from what I counted approximately 16 characters (seen or mentioned) in the first 20 minutes alone. These introductory scenes feel a little underwhelming and descriptive, with the audience being spoken at rather than introduced to the world we are expected to engage with. The multiple settings also mean too many scene changes, and although managed smoothly by the back stage team (Stage Manager Vittorio Parri with Assistant SM’s Aurelie Freoua and David East) they are jarring to the narrative.
In the play’s central role of Alisha, Claire-Monique Martin gives a slow burn of a performance; the emotion required by the high-stake early scenes just isn’t there, but she does draw us in later during some of the crucial disciplinary hearing scenes. She is captivating to watch and elegant in the space.
Like Martin’s performance, the script itself seems to finally settle mid-way through the first act. The ideas of the narrative become clearer, with some clever jokes at the expense of the men, while the boxing references to Alisha’s ‘fight;’ with the board are a nice touch.
From a direction point of view, the production lacks an artistic style or viewpoint. There are moments when the cast seemed to be unguided and incohesive. Contrary to this, Ian Recordon is a standout as company CEO, Rupert Watson. His is a subtle and nuanced performance.
Roselle Olivia Hirst is equally as convincing as Lydia, bringing to life an intentionally irritating character. However, it is in the character of Lydia where one recognises the play’s major problem. To be clear, the issue is the script and the play itself, rather than what the characters are saying. The play endeavours to call out and shame misogyny in the corporate workplace, but it seems to do so by pitting two female workers against each other as they compete for the attention and approval of male colleagues. As well as stereotyping the young, blonde, female worker as dumb, the script seems to almost shame them for being sexual. Perhaps in 2011, when the play was first written, we may not have considered these themes and characters to be contradictory but in today’s climate it does feel rather regressive.
For all its issues, it still feels important to support and champion the effort and work that goes into new writing, and especially from emerging companies, so if the themes of the play are of interest, do go and check it out.
Written and Directed by: Yasir Senna
Associate Director: Veronica Sarno
Stage Manager: Vittorio Parri
Produced by: Rebecca Lyon
Rumble! plays until 4 December at Drayton Arms Theatre. Further information and booking via the below link.