Review: The Assembly Women

The Assembly Women
Vaults Festival (Until 7th Feb)
Boireannach Theatre

“It’s the time of the day, when they have their say. It’s Women’s Time.”

It’s always satisfying to see a Greek play that is not only still relevant to ‘modern day’, but is relevant to this precise week, this precise day, minute, hour. Which Mairin O’Hagan’s translation of Aristophanes’ The Assembly Women certainly is.

This week, in politics, The Women’s Equality Party voted in their selected candidate to stand for London mayor in the May election. Well and truly fed up with the continual plight for women to be represented fairly and equally in Parliament, WEP took a stand some ten months ago. Yet, as The Assembly Woman, the idea of a more equal parliament is thousands of years old (which makes it all the more frustrating it's still yet to be achieved).

In Aristophanes' original version, a group of disgruntled wives dress up as their husbands in order to rig a vote in the Athenian Assembly. O’Hagan has contemporised her adaptation, and retold certain sections of the story, though the sentiment stays the same. A hefty nod to the tampon tax, an unsavoury character named Rudolph Murder, a fight to stop the privatisation of the NHS and the non-tax paying corporations all won a laugh of recognition from the audience. O’Hagan is great at the one liners, and has produced a tight and snappy script.

It’s also delightful to see seven women take to the stage together, which is a relatively rare thing to see. Director Helena Middleton has roused a hint of the traditional Greek chorus is through sections of contemporary choral song and dance, which brings a lighthearted liveliness to the piece. The Woman’s Time sections are a clever device, reminiscent of the traditional Greek chorus, linking us up to the greater picture. Martin (Sallyanne Badger) and Caroline (Leigh-Anne Gilbert) had a great energy which they batted between them, flinging the one liners fast and furiously, resulting in much hilarity, albeit hilarity that rested lightly on top of a more profound sentiment. Emma Skinner is an excellently clueless Darling Cambell, and equally as good as Hurst, a female surgeon.

It’s borderline farcical, and a fragile balance, as the women begin to take over parliament, I found myself (as the feminist I am) wanting them to get it right. I needn't have worried, it hits the rights notes - neither anti-male, or pro-female, it merely comes across as pro-equality, the final message that equality will be better for everyone.

It’s refreshing to see feminist theatre which is likely to speak to a larger group than just the feminists. I often find myself questioning that if we only preach to the converted, then what are we preaching for? I feel this may just capture and win the hearts of a broader audience, which is a fabulous achievement for Boireannach.

© Amie Taylor (@spoonsparkle) 2016

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