Opening the day after athlete Beth Tweddle was subjected to vile, sexist abuse during a Sky Sports Q&A – an all-too commonplace occurrence – this devised piece by Nick Payne and Carrie Cracknell feels particularly timely. Inspired by Kat Banyard’s book, The Equality Illusion, and taking its name from the Robin Thicke hit with the hideous video, it explores the insidious and worrying creep of contemporary misogyny in an inventive, entertaining and energising manner, unpicking the various ways in which women are represented in all media and how that representation feeds into the wider culture.
The production is collage-like in structure, a series of vignettes interspersed with songs – by Tammy Wynette, Lady Gaga, and The Crystals – and poetry by Michaela Coel, who also performs. Music throbs through the piece, lyrics seeping and staining like spilt wine on a white skirt. Sudden, violent attack is a recurring visual motif, as is the removal of increasingly precarious high heeled shoes.
The production would definitely benefit from being tighter in terms of structure and the more conventional dramatic scenes feel a bit predictable and formulaic, but the ensemble work is superb throughout and there’s an anger and an energy that comes flooding through, especially when it lifts a mirror to theatre itself and asks it to interrogate its own complicity. It could go further than it does, and it feels very much like a thing of beginnings, of questions not answers, but as a way of inspiring feminist thought and conversation among its audience it succeeds.
The Shed, National, London, January 22-February 22
- Nick Payne
- Carrie Cracknell
- National Theatre
- Marion Bailey, Michaela Coel, Bryony Hannah, Sinead Matthews, Ruth Sheen, Claire Skinner, Susannah Wise
- Running time
- 1hr 20mins