With the culture of plausible ignorance surrounding sexual harassment in the arts having been definitively shattered by recent high-profile allegations, a constructive conversation about our culture’s ingrained power dynamics is finally beginning to unfold.
The Words are Coming Now, then, is an apt title for this thought-provoking rapid response microfestival at London’s Theatre503, which features short plays from 10 authors and post show discussions with panellists from the theatre industry and beyond.
While the plays may be unpolished and somewhat uneven, they nevertheless succeed in bringing diverse perspectives – and some real, impressive nuance – to the issues they explore.
Chris Bush’s Speaking Freely contrasts the public opinions and inner doubts of three women from overlapping generations. Kerry Peers is wonderfully conflicted as the elder voice here, acknowledging life’s contradictions in the face of millennial Nicole Sawyerr’s moral absolutes.
Hotel du Vin, by Richard Bean, sees co-workers weighing the legal implications of an affair, with Amy Blair’s sharply-observed careerist ultimately gaining the upper hand. Director Cressida Brown invests the sequence with lively movements and solid comic timing, making it one of the production’s highlights.
Scene by scene, Alastair Borland’s lighting design remains simple but effective, charting the shifting mood with pastel coloured washes which bring some dynamism to the stark white performance space.
The closing piece, Words, by April de Angelis, unites the nine-strong company in sketching out incidents from a single life, where pervasive sexism and a serious assault realistically and revealingly blend into everyday experiences.