OH GROW UP, GIRLS!
Maybe this play about “friendship, feminism and what it means to be successful” would be less annoying if the characters – Bella, Jane, and Jane’s boyfriend Toby – were not clearly signalled as being in their thirties. As it is, their self-indulgent kidult carryings-on rapidly alienate. Grow up, you stupid drunken whingers! And for a “feminist” tract, it has to be an own goal to make the man the least infuriating. Poor old Toby may be a disillusioned English teacher who wants to be a househusband (“me and all the other Dads in a pavement cafe with a low-alcohol beer..taking the kids trips to Tate Modern with a sketchpad”). But at least he cooks supper, decorates, takes the cat to the vet and doesn’t blame everything on the opposite sex. And he wants a baby, and to love it, while Jane just moans “Kind of horrible – my vagina will never be the same…imagine me pinned to the sofa by a red slithery otter thing”.
It is a crying shame that Elinor Cook’s play, at this fabulous new-writing festival, should misfire. Because the staging (Amelia Sears directs) is ingenious and elegant, especially in a neon railway-line moment, and the performances – notably Jade Williams as Jane – are very good indeed, sucking every rare, available bit of reality from their parts. And Cook does write good one-liners. When Bella – who is doing a feminist blog with Jane – is being wooed by the editor of the hated Grazia magazine, Jane cries “she will force you into a scented room, yank out every one of your pubic hairs and give you a cupcake!”.
When she is in this Caitlin-Morannish vein Cook is fun. But too fast it turns into moaning hatred – Bella claiming that she let a boyfriend screw her without a condom because an “Embedded, societal” force enjoins us to worship The Penis. My companion cruelly said the whole thing had clearly been put through a computer programme called GuardianTranslate. Men are either sinister creatures at bus stops, useless drones, or silly fantasies. The women want to be as flaunty as they like, shed inhibition, abort pregnancies they conceived deliberately, get stinking drunk at clubs and fantasise about barmen. Irrelevant feminist as I am, let me confirm that both a nearby 29-year-old and a 21-year-old were just as irritated.
There is good stuff here, but it needs trimming by a third, refocusing and humanizing. The most telling moment is when, returning to their querulous feminist blog, they finally give a nod to the rest of the world and speak of “India, Somalia..! the more you scratch the surface of this stuff..” Yes. Right. Keep on scratching, girls, and not just your own itches.
http://www.hightide.org.uk to 19th