Women Centre Stage: Power Play - New Women, Hampstead Theatre - Review

The early evening slot of Women Centre Space at Hampstead Theatre on 20th November 2016, saw even more people turn up for inspiring, new female-led theatre. The New Women programme featured three very different pieces, but each were as remarkable  as they were entertaining.

Cristina Mackerron and Chess Dilion-Reams, who together make up the Hiccup Project, started the proceedings with May-We-Go-Round. A fusion of dance and comedic theatre, it provides a hilarious, but candid look at romantic relationships and the positive influence of female friendship. In any case, the duo's chemistry is every bit as real as French & Saunders  in their heyday (but with even more energy)! Here is proof that women are every bit as funny and innovative as their male counterparts.

The second segment of 'New Women' ventured into very different territory as Winsome Pinnock directed her response to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. A character study called Tituba, the monologue focuses on a Barbados-born slave girl who ends up living in the Massachusetts Bay Colony Massachusetts Bay Colony during 1692-93.

Played by Cecilia Noble and inspired by Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem by Dr Elaine Breslaw, Tituba here isn't a passive victim. True, she's singled and framed by the community. Even in this so-called God-fearing community, she's an outsider, a slave. And for a village comprised of people who fled the Old World to practise their religious convictions in freedom, there isn't a lot of tolerance - and fear still has a hold on them.   

Noble shows Tabitha as someone who thinks on her feet, the reason she has survived until now. While Parris' niece Abigail Williams is indeed manipulative and sets in the motion the chain of events, Tituba adopts this same behaviour, using their own fear and their low opinion of her to her advantage. And although she's tarred with the brush of witchcraft, surreptitiously Tituba lets slip to Mrs Elizabeth Parris that as a slave she's had  to perform 'wifely duties' for the Reverend too. Suddenly finding the truth in this hornets nest takes on a personal dimension and from the sidelines Tituba gets to watch Salem turn in on itself...

Set firmly in the present day, Wilderness by April de Angelis was the perfect tonic to close the hour. Starring Janet Suzman and Kathryn Pogson and directed by Susannah Tresilian. Wilderness focuses on a doctor/patient relationship on a psychiatric ward.  As the misbehaving patient, who wants to be 'let out' to visit a friend, Suzman has most of the best lines. However, the real payoff is seeing Pogson as the calm, collected psychiatrist slowly become like Suzman's character (rather than the other way around) and the self-realisation that she detests certain people with an intensity that frightens even herself. A very funny play and great to see that older female actors shine in material that would normally be given to younger, male actors to perform.

© Michael Davis 2016


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