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Hear Me Howl review at the Old Red Lion Theatre, London – ‘exhilarating and refreshing’

Alice Pitt-Carter in Hear Me Howl at the Old Red Lion Theatre. Photo: Will Lepper

There’s a bittersweet irony to seeing Hear Me Howl the day Ireland’s Eighth Amendment is officially repealed. Perhaps it’s a stretch, but there seems to be an extra touch of ferocity and fury in Alice Pitt-Carter’s performance as Jess, a 29-year-old who accidentally gets pregnant and becomes the drummer of a post-punk band in a fugue of confusion and rage.

Lydia Rynne’s brutally funny and tight monologue has an edge of righteous anger to it. It’s clear from the start that Jess does not want children – she rarely oscillates from that fact, and it becomes obvious that the only reason she feels compelled to keep the child is down to societal pressures. It’s a refreshing take amid the many contemporary plays that continue to make motherhood women’s be-all and end-all.

Sally Somerville-Woodiwis’ set places the drumkit front and centre, leaving no question as to what takes priority in Jess’s life. Kay Michael’s direction feels homegrown in the best possible way: it’s a production that actively engages with and builds off its pub-theatre setting.

Pitt-Carter bounces off the walls, using the tiny space as if it’s a blown-out version of Jess’s muddled brain, careering from one idea to the next. She strokes the cymbals, plays with her sticks, occasionally smashes out a bar or two, but for the most part, the kit is left mute. Until it isn’t. And when Pitt-Carter is finally, properly let loose on the drums, the play really takes flight.

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Exhilarating and refreshing monologue on conflicted attitudes to motherhood