Might Never Happen, King's Head Theatre - Review

Rising to the challenge to show the effects of street harassment on women in an accessible fashion, Doll's Eye Theatre [Catherine Deevy, Amy Ewbank, Kirsty Osmon,  Danielle Nott, Vicki Welles, Ashley Sean Cook, Paul Mantania and director Amy Ewbank] have devised Might Never Happen, an evening of sketches based on their own experiences on this matter. The vignettes' incidents will be familiar to most women, but in the interest of playing devil's advocate, other points of view are put across as well, minimising the possibility of anything being didactic.

The first couple of sketches touch on the disparaging nature of “Cheer up! Might never happen!” and the ethics of a stranger commenting on a woman’s appearance. However, if the previous sketches leave the audience thinking about the subjective nature of comments and their context, the evening's bus sketch is unequivocal in stating where the problem lies and the absence of a ready solution. A man tries to strike up a conversation with a woman on a night bus. After politely answering some of his questions, the line of enquiry become more and more intrusive, leaving the harassed woman visibly uncomfortable. Eventually a male and female passenger both try as 'tactfully' as possible tell the man that the harassed woman just wants to be left alone and that he should leave the bus. However the man senses there's no 'bite' behind their 'bark' and carries on as before. Meanwhile a female passenger asks the man who earlier spoke up, “When are you actually going to DO something?”…

This conundrum is something everyone will recognise. As a man who over the years has had to 'intervene' on occasion, it always boils down to this: most people who behave in an anti-social fashion rarely respond positively to requests for a cessation  of such behaviour. Usually, the best that one can expect is a torrent of verbal abuse or at worst violence. From my own experience, that 'commitment' at that moment to stand your ground and see it through to the end, makes all the difference. The other person usually senses that their gruff intimidation isn't going to cut it and a 'resolution' – one way or another – is made. Of course not everyone can stand up to such people and see such incidents through to the end, but speaking out always has consequences one way or another, and deciding to report it afterwards doesn't help you while you're 'in the thick of it'. In any case this was one of the highlights of the evening – unsettling and truthful in equal measure.

With regards to women having many different opinions of what is tolerable and acceptable, one sketch explores this using the format of daytime TV such as Loose Women. The issue raised in the programme sketch is 'wolf whistling: should it be banned?' While one woman states the reasons that it should be eradicated, another guest panders to the producers by endorsing the 'benign' nature of wolf-whistling; her 'opinion' trending on social media. In the end, there isn't even a heathly debate on the subject. The topic is instead trivialised for ratings...

While some of the sketches were larger in scopes, the 'smaller' ones worked just as well, precisely they were understated. In one such sketch, Deevey plays a mother telling her baby daughter what she can expect from men and their behaviour later in life, while Welles' monologue which has her recorded dialogue played while she stands silently, reiterates that the body isn't who or what she is – it's just a 'vehicle'...

While the sketches obviously focused on the women, the use of men at certain points adds another dimension to the debate. In one such sketch, a man is upset by a woman who persisted in staring at him like he was a 'thing' on the train home. Of course this is something that men don't have to fear or contend with, which would account why some men have no idea of how their actions are interpreted. Another pertinent sketch had the man acknowledge that as sympathetic as he is to women, he doesn't want to be one to continually tell other men that can't say such-and-such about women's appearance. Fastest way to becoming Billy No-Mates...

What I've relayed here is just the tip of what was performed during the evening and it in turn just begins to scratch the surface of the issues. There's plenty of mileage in theatre on this topic and what Doll's Eye Theatre has achieved is both inspiring and necessary until society itself finally listens.

© Michael Davis 2016

Might Never Happen runs at the King's Head Theatre on 8 May, 9 May, 15 May and 16 May 2016.




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