Her Hem opens with an unexpected announcement of the death of Oliver Sansree (Luke Culloty), the chief designer of House Sansree. This sets a solid foundation to explore the backstory and immediate events prior to Oliver’s death. But while there is much potential to investigate how the diagnosis of a late-stage incurable disease could affect one’s actions, this opportunity is lost without any understanding into Oliver’s previous character and personality.
The story revolves around the commissioning of a dress for Linda Jones (Nomi Bailey), the daughter of a late MP with controversial views on LGBTQIA+ rights, ethnicity, and religion. The play focuses very much on whether Linda should be judged on her late father’s views, and the potential impact for brands that are associated with such public figures. While in principle this is a topic worthy of debate, the refusal to commission a dress and a companywide walk out seem disproportionate, especially if you take into consideration that the MP in question is deceased.
Linda herself appears to share her father’s views, but it also seems that she has not yet developed her own views and is rather simply repeating what her father impressed upon her. She is portrayed as lacking in emotional maturity, and indecisive from the start. This is made even more noticeable through the dialogues between Linda and Maja (Irina Anghel). All of this led to Linda’s breakdown later in the show, after which she never reappears.
In contrast, Oliver and Maja’s views are prominent and consistent, drowning out the presence of Claire for the majority of the show. However, it is Claire (Horeb Chohan) that eventually shouts down Oliver and Maja, effectively summarised the potential impact of racism by using her personal experience to close the play. While it is clear the writer and director want to use this as a way to leave the conclusion open-ended, so prompting the audience to consider the wider implications of certain movements, it does feel abrupt and rushed. In addition, given what we know of Oliver and Maja’s personalities and how they view Claire’s presence, it is difficult to believe they would have allowed Claire to deliver her monologue uninterrupted.
The entire story is set in the fitting room of House Sansree, relying on spoken dialogues to propel the plot forward. While there is deliberate use of amusing insults to keep the audience entertained and engaged, some of these feel out of place, especially considering the serious debate happening elsewhere. Similarly, the use of music and lighting is questionable. It is particularly unclear what the green and purple lighting on Claire at the end is meant to signify. Furthermore, the debate on some of the important topics are made less effective by characters shouting their views over each other. While this would happen in a real debate, it is just used excessively here.
The topics debated in Her Hem have incredible potential, exploring the morality of oppositions and how the public perception can affect individual judgements. However, the overall impact isn’t realised due to the breadth of topics presented, along with the superficial introduction of the characters’ personalities. The story would benefit from a clearer character description prior to the main events to showcase where they stood and how they got to where they are, along with a refinement of the debates on these pertinent topics.
Written and Movement Direction by: Luke Culloty
Directed by: Ruby Herrington
Costume Design by: Linyi Jai
Produced by: Luke Culloty for Split Note
This play has completed its current run at Etcetera Theatre.