'If I be waspish, best beware my sting' Act II, Scene I, The Taming of the Shrew
A crescendo of human impulses and societal influences unveiling our deepest, darkest appetites. Oh, it was good.
As I stood outside THE SPACE, hastily cramming chips into my mouth in acknowledgment of my forgotten dinner, I took in the electric surroundings of Stokes Croft and wondered just what would surface in this boundary-pushing play. The last time I visited this venue the small yet acquiring space was dressed in modern surrealist art, completely empty aside from a greying man sitting right in the middle browsing his laptop, most likely wishing I would leave him to his Facebook scrolling and avoid the awkwardness that had sifted in behind me. However, what greeted me on entrance to Anna Jordan’s FREAK was an affable air of excitement and determination. Lily Barber’s simple yet effective set design transformed the room into a subtly majestic and colourful display that intrigued the eye. The intimacy of the place oozed acceptance, exploration and inclusion – exactly what bullet theatre expressed in their passionate production of female sexuality.
Surrounding the set was an exhibition of empowering and bold artwork from local artists, providing a thought-provoking peak into the serious message of the play. As my friend and I joined the gaggle of excited people musing the display, the courage of the women who brought this whole evening to life overwhelmed me. As we mused my friend turned to me, pointing at one particular piece which illustrated a woman with period blood leaking down her legs and remarked ‘that’s a bit outrageous’. I smiled to myself and the womanly pride in me flared even brighter. Yes. Yes we are.
Immediately after the lights dimmed, the audience were flung into the sex lives of two confused and experimental women. The parallels between them portrayed how the small and significant details of every woman’s life are just as crucially important as those of other women. Ruth Wormington’s exquisite depiction of Leah’s character, a whimsical adolescent, was exaggerated and dramatized in order to reflect the nature of her story. She was innocent and romantic, dreaming just as a teenage girl would dream. Thomy Lawson’s performance, however, was realistic and relatable (in certain aspects, one of which being the exclamation of her multiple boredom induced attempts to cum) and contrasted with her story of appalling abuse and loss. However, Leah’s story was more relatable, with references to snapchat, waxing and the minimal troubles women battle in the face of every day.
The silent ensemble provided a constant visual for the ongoing desires women have day to day. Their disregard for their exposed flesh, coupled with the seductive and suggestive movements, whilst being in such a close proximity to the audience exploited the truth that women are constantly criticised for being overt or unflatteringly sexual. Leaving the audience at a loss of where to look, they stripped down to their underwear and unabashedly exposed themselves, proving that expectations we have of women are prevalent even amongst the most accepting and experimental of uni students. (Yes, we should be ashamed). The supporting artwork alluded to this performance, as local artists such as Tallulah Pomeroy and Mel Sanger exhibited their overt artwork unashamedly and admiringly so.
People are often afraid to expose the taboos of female sexuality such as waxing, masturbating, or having sexual relations with the same gender without attaching a label – however it’s no fabrication to say that these women were certainly not afraid. This talented cast entirely diminished the label of ‘outrageousness’ through their proud and devoted portrayal of Anna Jordan’s ingeniously emotive words.