Six Perpetual Ladies and a Two Man Show

This week contained two shows in three days: Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour and RashDash: Two Man Show. Both challenged their audiences, examining the female experience through music, dance, and passion. Our Ladies was a fiercely poignant show about choir girls celebrating sexuality; a long frowned upon taboo. Dealing with fragility, love, sex, heartbreak, and dodgy pick-up lines Featherstone Wright created characters who were unapologetically real. Each girl is a package of flaws, humour, and one hell of a voice.

Two Man Show wasn’t as ‘real’, mostly because it was so surreal and detached from any kind of traditional structure of a play or story. The two leading ladies transformed seamlessly from feminist lecturers to nude dancers to closed-off men. The whole show seemed to be pointing out the façade of gender, using extravagant costumes contrasted with bare nudity and pitting the two actresses against their characters in the latter half of the show.

Two Man Show highlighted the inadequacies of words as a way to express identity. Our Ladies certainly was not so overt in their message but it seemed to be similar – these young women expressed themselves through music, dance, and their friendship with each other. The dialogue was powerful and witty but it formed no more than half of who the characters were. In both shows, there was a sense of reclamation, exemplified in the word ‘cunt’ as the ladies of both productions took it back from all the men who so freely and maliciously tossed it around before them.

Featherstone-Wright presents us with badass choir girls who want to have sex with boys. And girls. The actresses had a wonderful ability to pitch it at exactly the right tone. These female characters are, finally, multifaceted and highly flawed. Both overtly sexually confident, falling over each other to prove their worth, and brutally fractured. They are all suffering, or have suffered, but are darkly witty; harmonising and jumping on each other’s lines.

RashDash put on an extremely powerful show. The two incredibly dressed women at the beginning who seemed to be able to spout endless facts about women, patriarchy, and motherhood at the end became two fragile human beings, naked and honestly monologuing about who they are and what a woman should be. In between that, they transform into men losing their father and their way. Fragile masculinity is contrasted with a rampant and radical expression of female sexuality in a cabaret-style powerhouse of a show.

The finale of Our Ladies, preceded by a Forced Entertainment style intro, allows the audience a cathartic rest. ‘No Woman, No Cry’ chimes in perfect pitch and we reflect on the reality of it all the messy pain of radiotherapy, the anti-climax of the popped cherry, and the overriding strength of female friendship. Just as in Two Man Show, we are sent off with the resounding notes of a final song, highlighting the struggle to articulate the intricacies of gender.


Behind Every Beautiful Woman

Sunday night blues were creeping in last week, but I was pleasantly surprised to receive a text which led me to a last minute, unexpected trip to the National Theatre in London on Monday night with a beloved friend and her family as a treat for her birthday. I was told only that it was called ‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers’ and it was chosen because the friend in question had recently travelled around India so her mother thought it was suitable. And suitable it was – it surpassed suitable, as anything at the National does; this was extraordinary.

Plastic bags, bottles, cardboard, and paper plummet onto the stage with an almighty crash. The performance has started and Asian songs with a heavy beat blare out over the speakers, startling the older members of our audience somewhat. Throughout the production projections of planes fly overhead and a fluid chorus rush back and forth across the stage. The delicacy of the actors juxtaposed the grandeur of the set well – although the sheer immensity of the stage often shadowed some of the smaller actors. I loved that the women in this play were at the forefront – playing villians, saints, and just being presented as real people who make mistakes. The story revolved around women and girls, and better still, women of colour – now that is a truly refreshing thing to see in theatre.

Atmosphere, feminism and vibrancy – the National Theatre created a piece with such flavour and tactile emotion that every member of the vast audience was enthralled from start to finish.