[Review:] PUSSY LIBERTY, The Bread and Roses Theatre, London.

This review will consider Pussy Liberty, written by Valerie Isaiah Sadoh, directed by Diana Mumbi, and performed at The Bread and Roses Theatre.

I shall start off by saying that the writing for this performance was very unnaturalistic. Dialogue was over-informative and lengthy as opposed to realistic, which jarred against a “realistic” style of acting and plot. Whilst there were a vast amount of political tones to this play, the loud declaration of characters’ opinions felt odd in their setting. Perhaps it would have made more sense for at least the one character of Blaire (Marie Myrie) to talk in this way, but for George (Kyran Mitchell-Nanton), for example, to also speak in this manner, listing incessantly the roles of the dominant and powerful man, simply makes for dialogue strange to the human tongue. Either the writing should make for naturalistic characters with political undertones and subtext — again, perhaps with the exception of the main character — or it should be conceived more artistically with performers serving to personify themes in lieu of being them. As it stood, this play seemed lost amongst the realms of politicalisation and psychological realism. It was awkwardly split between two contrasting narratives: one focusing on the psychological effects of sexual abuse on a girl, and the other concentrating on feminism. Presenting just one would have sufficed.

On to the subject of performance. With the exception of Anabelle Broad (playing Halle), all characterisations were hugely poor. Unaided by the unclad writing of the dialogue, the physicality and expressivity of the performers were highly lacking. There were a countless amount of slip-ups on lines from both Broad and Mitchell-Nanton, and the overall energy was low. Furthermore, the character of the Nurse (Kellie McCord) was particularly confusing for me. I felt that using a psychiatrist was a very banal and uncreative way to access and convey Blaire’s subconscious, and combined with an unnaturally robotic delivery, this was an even less effective decision. Having the Nurse seated amongst the audience was an okay idea, but I felt it would have been much more successful for her to be behind the audience, permitting her voice to penetrate and travel through them, accentuating the “subconscious” vibe. Also, having her sat in the front row was not only awkward for scenes in which she was not needed, but it prohibited the world of the play from generating the desired effect of leaking off of the stage; rather, it forced it to remain very much self-contained.

Then, there’s the character of the Narrator (Julia Xavier Stier). Whilst I felt her constant onstage presence was an interesting idea, I was joined by a few audience members I spoke with after the performance in feeling perplexed as to her purpose. On one hand, she seemed to represent Blaire’s thoughts — until the very end when it became ‘apparent’ that she was, in fact, Sophie, a girl Blaire knew in her adolescence who was perhaps subjected to the same sexual abuse (a conclusion I found it extremely unrealistic and unprofessional for a psychiatrist to come to…); and on the other, she seemed to represent the theme and agenda of feminism itself. Then, there are her lines which are repeated and developed upon every time she speaks. These repetitions felt most fallible. Either she should have no development at all and be a mysterious, omniscient presence with, perhaps, a line or two to summarise and clarify her representations at the end; or she should be a complete character with a coherent development. As it was, her presence felt very embryonic and confused, torn between the two narratives of the play.

Everything in this play just felt extremely cluttered — even down to the superfluous high heels in the front corner of the stage. The linear narrative of Blaire’s abuse vs the theme of feminism [with hints of “menism”]; the uncertain role of the Narrator vs an odd mix of opinionated yet uni-layered characters; everything just felt so confused. Whilst I note the minor link between the two splitting narratives, it was not strong enough for this to be an area of poignant focus.

“An unoriginal and underdeveloped piece of theatre.”

 

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