Posts Tagged ‘ Women Power and Politics ’

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.


Women, Power and Politics: Part One, Then

Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn
Director, Indhu Rubasingham

The past may be a foreign country but in terms of women’s rights, it’s a different planet. The first part of the Tricycle’s Women, Power and Politics season, Then, directed by Indhu Rubasingham, examines milestones on the way to the modern world. Topics range from the fight for women’s suffrage to Elizabeth I.

Handbagged, by Moira Buffini (the current writer in residence at the National Theatre), imagines the weekly audiences between Margaret Thatcher and the Queen. This wonderfully meta-theatrical, tongue-in-cheek piece manages to satirise without diminishing the achievements of either woman. Given that the audiences were private, this is fertile ground for Buffini’s imagination to take root: the young Queen (Claire Cox) will say one thing only to be sharply chastised by her older self, played by Kika Markham (“I never said that!”).

Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s The Lioness is a gift for Niamh Cusack in the meaty role of Elizabeth I. Cusack oozes confidence and her royalty is evident in her bearing and powerful voice. Lenkiewicz’s text is hammy in places but the central feature of the text – how Elizabeth uses her virginity as a kind of power – resonates today as strongly as ever.

Elsewhere, Marie Jones contributes a play about suffragettes in Ireland and Lucy Kirkwood’s Bloody Wimmin looks at the events of Greenham Common in the 1980s. It was refreshing to hear, courtesy of Kirkwood, feminism eloquently advocated by a male character. All this takes place in Rosa Maggiora’s versatile and witty set, with the figure of Britannia painted on the floor.

As in Now, verbatim accounts are dotted in between the plays and Gillian Slovo’s text is faithful to the point of parody – every single “erm” from Edwina Currie is recorded and magnified by a crisp Claire Cox, to the audience’s delight.

Then is a clear-sighted, coherent piece: there is enough distance in between our world and the events described for the playwrights to make confident statements and to create or re-imagine vivid characters. Jones, Buffini, Lenkiewicz and Kirkwood vigorously interrogate the different kinds of power exhibited by women over the decades: the power of beauty, the power of virginity, the power-suit and even, in the case of Margaret Thatcher, the power of the handbag.