Eight young womxn completed our Quines Writes training programme in early July. Many of them have continued writing theatre reviews so we wanted to share some more of their work with you.
Quines Writes was a six week programme run in partnership by Stellar Quines, The List, YWCA Scotland – The Young Women’s Movement and The Feminist Fringe. It was created to tackle the gender imbalance in theatre reviewing and feature writing.
Review by Rebecca McIlroy
Naomi Sheldon’s debut play Good Girl is a startlingly funny and frank monologue that analyses the danger of conforming yourself around the expectations of others. What begins as a tentative step onto a spot lit platform becomes a deeply personal part coming of age story, part candid look at the female experience.
Coming in at a runtime of 55 minutes means that the momentum picks up straight from the start. Moving from moments in time are punctuated by 90s soundtrack classics as Sheldon explores burgeoning sexuality, mental health and a tide pushing back against the natural acceptance she had with herself. You see cycles of behaviour, no different in 1997 than 2017, that try to squish GG into a tidy cube of a woman.
It’s ability to elicit empathy from the audience stems from Naomi Sheldon’s straightforward storytelling of deeper, more complex issues. Her sharp characterisations of her childhood friends make for fantastic comedic moments that guide the wider message. Sheldon’s portrayal of GG is so vibrant and perfectly pitched that you can’t help but to root for her when she’s following her instincts against early examples of inequality. There are ideas that I wish were further expanded upon as the main bulk of the story concluding quicker than expected, leaving bubbles of unsatisfied narrative.
Ultimately Good Girl results in a rallying cry to its audience. Sheldon wants you to embrace those emotions that are ‘too much’ and kicks the concept of being a good girl in its patriarchal balls.
Review by Ellen Leslie
(CW: Depression, suicide)
The second instalment of Koko Brown’s Colour Trilogy, GREY is a bold and moving production that explores depression and Black women’s mental health. Brown is a strong, independent, Black woman with a roof over her head and food in her fridge. So why does she frequently feel so sad?
Over the course of the production Brown uses spoken word and vocal looping to convey her emotions. She is incredibly open, sharing some of her darkest thoughts, but there are also humorous moments, such as when she explains depression with the forced cheeriness of a children’s television presenter. All of this is linked to the underrepresentation of Black people in popular culture, and Brown draws attention to the negative ways in which Black women are portrayed in the media.
The script is beautifully written, but Brown is careful not to romanticise mental illness. It’s not poetic, she says, describing how she will sometimes burst into tears while going to the toilet, and has episodes when she can’t leave the house because she fears something bad will happen. Another segment explains some of the side effects of citalopram, the antidepressant she was prescribed. The production is also fully British Sign Language integrated, and actress Sapphire Joy is responsible for the majority of the signing.
An informative and entertaining watch, GREY seems particularly relevant in the current climate. Brown and Joy are both talented performers, and it was a pleasure to watch them perform.
GREY was available to stream as part of Brixton House’s House to House online series. For more information about the Colour Trilogy and future performances, visit their website.
Review by Carolyn Paterson
Based on an Old Sussex folktale of witchcraft and shapeshifting, Sary is Different Theatre’s feminist reimagining of “The Legend of Old Sary Weaver”, which gives life and personality to the woman behind the fable.
It is no surprise that the performance is part of Reading Fringe Festival’s digital programme as even through a screen Sary feels intimate and haunting. In her 19th Century cottage, Sary draws on the oral traditions of storytelling and talks the audience through her own life from childhood tragedies to sexual violence to the misogynistic origins of the myth that she was seen “shapeshifting” into a hare.
However, she is not alone: writer and director Sam Chittenden ingeniously split the character of Sary between two actors who both occupy the stage throughout the play. “Young Sary” and “Old Sary” mirror and interact with each other in a dream-like manner leading to tender moments of self-reflection. Like the baskets Sary weaves, Chittenden weaves time to create something new on stage.
This play has power in its words from the rhyming speech of “Old Sary” and “Young Sary” to the lyrical and pastoral descriptions of the surrounding landscape, allowing the audience to see the world through their eyes. Chittenden dedicates Sary to “the hare in all of us”. By restoring Sary’s autonomy, witchcraft and the superstitions which surround it become a vehicle to explore the “shapeshift” from “maid” to “mother”, female empowerment and the negative reputation given to a woman who is “too quick” for a man.
Watch Sary online now until 31st August.
Review by Lucy Philip
Six trawlermen and a tsunami of testosterone, it’s all hands–on deck for Bound the debut play written and directed by Jesse Briton, performed at Southwark Playhouse. Bound was first performed as a student production in 2010 and sailed to success the same year with a sold out run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. A string of tours followed across the UK and it found its way across the pond in 2016 as part of the L.A. Fringe.
The play follows six trawlermen from Devon frustrated by a cancelled tour and the threat of empty pockets, the men choose to ignore the treacherous weather warnings and board “The Violet” each carrying enough emotional baggage to sink the ship to the oceans floor. A fiery ensemble cast captures the ups and downs of a motley crew and they also prove to be great singers; beautiful yet haunting shanties echo throughout transitions.
Bound dives deep into the conflicting pressures the trawlermen face on dry land, from immigration to declining industry and the pressure to live up to the legacies left by their “heroic” fathers. Toxic masculinity has a tight grip on the steering wheel leading the men into troubled waters, Bound will leave you willing the men to stay afloat in more ways than one.
Bound is currently streaming here.