We meet Patricia (Yasmin Dawes) as she runs into her abusive ex, never named, on the street. Instead of giving the speech she has prepared over and over again in her head, she says ‘hi’ three times and agrees to meet him for dinner.
At home, alone in her bedroom, Patricia first remonstrates with herself and then looks slowly around, becoming aware of her audience. She sets out to explain her story; to explain what she meant to say and why she didn’t say it and to try and explain just how complicated it all is. As part of preparing this speech Patricia has given so much consideration to her words that she defines a number of them as she goes along: she is searching for precision in order that she can be clearly and totally understood.
We don’t learn much about Patricia, her background, her job or her life. We learn a lot about her trauma, a choice that helps show she could be anyone. No-one can tell if they will end up in an abusive relationship, or if anyone they know is in one. Dawes is impressive in the role. There is a lot of humour, in particular during a flashback to how she met her abuser, but also confusion, frustration, anger and shame – all well delivered and balanced.
Ella Clarand’s set is Patricia’s cluttered bedroom and this makes it clear she is living back at home with her parents. There is great use of lighting by Jessica Brigham, to show different times and locations, with a flashback to a nightclub notably well done. This all comes together under Kaleya Baxe’s direction, which smartly leaves pauses and allows scenes space to land before moving on.
Patricia wants to tell her abuser about how much damage, how much trauma he has inflicted on her very being, and both play and performance illustrate this superbly. The piece clearly resonated with the audience, and a large number were on their feet applauding the instant it ended.
I have to talk about the venue, Brixton House. For a new and purpose-built theatre, it was a real disappointment to find that there was no rake at all between Rows A and B, nor were the chairs even staggered. This meant that my view (and I am well over six foot tall) was restricted throughout and my partner struggled to see more than once. There are clearly adjustable blocks to allow Row C to be tiered so this really feels like a strange choice.
A short time into the performance, at least two groups were let in late via both doors and with a considerable amount of noise. Due to the transition and the location of one specific door, the woman next to me said she thought it wasn’t a monologue and that the abuser was now going to enter – the thought crossed my mind for a moment too. Both groups were let into seats in the front row.
Additionally, the lighting rig or the ventilation went off on a bit of a noisy escapade for a good few minutes during the performance. This was really distracting and even had Dawes looking upwards more than once.
Hopefully, these are teething problems for a new venue and are all things which can be addressed. Please do let me note that both FoH and bar staff were lovely, friendly and helpful so there’s a clear base to build on here.
Ultimately these diversions failed to distract from the excellence of the play, which all in all is very worth seeing for script, production and performance.
Written by: Martha Watson Appress
Directed by: Kaleya Baxe
Produced by: Nur Khairiyah (Khai)
Sounde design by: Beth Duke
Set and costume design by: Ella Clarke
Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man that used to hit her) has completed its current run at Brixton House. Further dates are scheduled in May at Lancaster, Harrogate, Manchester and Derby. Full details can be found here.