To She or Not to She - Edfringe Review

'Frailty thy name is woman?! Oh get stuffed Will!' 14 year old Emma Bentley’s response to realising that the Bard wrote all the best parts are for men and that, despite being the best actress in the school, she isn’t going to be playing Hamlet. And so it goes on, through drama school in Liverpool, to London where all the male actors in the flat seem to get far more interesting audition opportunities to deciding that the only way forward is to write her own feminist Shakespeare solo play.

Emma’s journey becomes a feminist exploration of women in theatre more broadly than just Shakespeare – at one point there is a voice collage of women recounting their experiences of sexism in their work. But if that sounds rather worthy and possibly man bashing rest assured, it isn’t anything of the sort. From the moment Emma bounces into action she is warm, witty and engaging. She confides her dreams to us, she shares her first love, she shouts at her record player.

Weaving, and subverting, bits of Shakespeare throughout (including excerpts of Gielgud and Olivier on her record player), Emma’s tale of her struggles to make it as an actor is warm and engaging. She plays the range of ages from 14 to 23 convincingly without being coy and also reveals some of the vulnerability of being an actor, the sabotaging inner voice that translates everything it hears into criticism. We are with her every step of the journey and I’m sure that anyone with experience of drama school, but particularly women struggling to start a career in theatre, will see themselves in this story.

There is no set as such and Bentley makes good use of the space in the compact and intimate space at Pleasance Courtyard – adding the sense of sharing a very personal story. Although in reality it probably isn’t but Bentley makes it sound so.

She concludes the show with the part she always really wanted and I promise you will hear it in a very different way to Shakespeare’s original intention. Altogether an perceptive, warm and witty show.

(c) Kate Saffin 2015

Pleasance Courtyard
14.00 (1hr) daily to August 31st 2015

Audio Interview - Kate Saffin talks to Emma Bentley about To She or Not to She

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