Alex Wood’s ambitious debut science-fiction play envisions a world in which women suddenly start to grow. Overnight their bodies expand and their limbs elongate. They become larger, taller and stronger. This condition is known as “sprouting”.
As women start to take up more room, society struggles to accommodate them. Schools are segregated to contain this new tribe of super-women.
Wood’s play, which contains strong echoes of Naomi Alderman’s novel The Power, examines the shifting balance of power that comes about as a result of the sprouting, the way it impacts on familial relationships as well as women’s role in the workplace and bedroom.
Captioning has been incorporated into the design of Helena Jackson’s production. Other fringe productions could learn from the way accessibility has been folded into the narrative and the set. It doesn’t, however, solve the problem of how to convey the women’s new physicality. Silver paint is smeared on their skin, but the rest is left to the imagination.
Alexandra James does good work as one of the first women to sprout, but the pacing of some scenes is sluggish and an earnest tone sometimes creeps into the writing, undermining the satirical potential of the piece. The more straight-faced it becomes, the less effective it is, but it’s at its best when using the concept to explore ideas of consent and power dynamics within relationships.