Women, Power and Politics: Part Two, Now

Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn
Director: Indhu Rubasingham

In a recent interview, Indhu Rubasingham, director of the Tricycle’s Women, Power and Politics season, said ‘It’s like we have gone back in time…We all became complacent as a generation, and we got scared of the word “feminism”’.

Now, the second half of the Women, Power and Politics season, does nothing as obvious as dictating the tenets of feminism. Rather, the five short plays which comprise the evening examine current attitudes to women in power. The evening poses questions, rather than providing answers.

Five plays, all by female playwrights, tackle the subject with varying degrees of success. An account of Margaret Beckett’s bid for the Labour leadership (she was soundly beaten by Tony Blair) is a somewhat rudderless piece which jerkily swerves from scene to scene. Playing the Game, by Bola Agbaje only had one volume setting – loud and brash. And, even allowing for the brevity of the pieces, her characters veered dangerously towards stereotype.

Pink, by Sam Holcroft was the most interesting piece of the collection. Holcroft’s play was not primarily about women in power (although it was this as well) but about the power-play between women. As one of Holcroft’s characters says ‘It’s surprising what women do to each other.’ Pink imagines a simmering scene between a female prime minister (Heather Craney) and the (also female) head of a porn empire (Amy Loughton). The two women manipulate, intimidate and attempt to over-power each other in a gripping piece of drama which got to the heart of the issues that the other pieces skirted around.

Ironically, one of the highlights of the evening was Zinnie Harris’ all-male The Panel. Five men discuss the candidates they’ve just interviewed, drawn from an all-female shortlist. Harris hilariously satirises the irrelevant and often irrational reasons behind hiring someone. A final work by Sue Townsend, You, Me and Wii, exhibits her trademark wit and plucky-but-poor characters. This was a masterclass in creating “3D” characters in a short time.

Verbatim accounts from Edwina Currie, Ann Widdecombe, Jacqui Smith and Oona King provided some of the funniest moments of the evening, with Kika Markham’s impression of Widdecombe being particularly excellent. But these sit awkwardly aside the fictional accounts – neither managing to compliment nor comment.

Overall, the evening’s weaknesses spring from its great strength: the huge scope given to the playwrights blunted their power. Each play seemed to spark intensely before fizzling out. There was anger, yes, but I’m not sure that even the playwrights knew where it was directed.


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