“Calm Down Dear: Camden People's Theatre's annual festival of feminism returns – with added penises”
You only have to read the headline the Evening Standard gave to the Calm Down Dear festival to understand why such festivals are still desperately necessary, oh the sweet irony. As Oonagh Murphy touched on in this show, the headline uses the number of men taking part in this year’s festival to validate it more so than were it just women. She's not wrong, somehow men participating in the feminist movement have become more novel, and seemingly more listened to when they say the things their female counterparts have been saying for years.
Give Me Your Skin, created and performed by queer performance makers Oonagh Murphy and Tom Ross-Williams takes a fresh look at toxic masculinity and the impact it has on both men and women . It succeeds in being both fun and hard hitting, sometimes almost simultaneously, and throws a great number of conversations in the arena that need to be had.
The duo have a relaxed performance style, keeping it seemingly light and conversational whilst packing in the many challenging topics; it’s frequently hard to tell if they really are just having a conversation, or working from a skilfully put together script. It felt comfortably informal, the games and audience participation that intersperse the performance were inviting as they held a safe space for audience members to step in to.
I anticipate anyone who’s spent even a day trying to be a feminist on social media will have experienced the phenomenon of mansplaining, when a man tells them that it isn’t a problem (and why) or to calm down etc etc. In this piece Tom and Oonagh beautifully demonstrate the alternative - he listens as she shares some of her experiences of what it feels like to be a woman walking home alone at night. After Tom reflects on how he’d never thought about some of those things you have to worry about as a woman.
As well as Tom and Oonagh we had Kieton, a young boxer who had worked with them previously on a youth project and had been invited to be a part of the perfomance. His presence added a playful dynamic to the piece, he seemingly also undertook the role as witness to Tom and Oonagh’s discussions, stories and thoughts.
What I loved most about this piece was how succinct it was in delivering its conversations, many of which evoked a sense of familiarity with me, and no doubt many others. More than anything, it gave me the feeling of being listened to. It was in incredible shape for a work-in-progress and I look forward to catching up with the completed version in the future.
©Amie Taylor 2016