A Boy Named Sue (Theatre) Until 29 August, 18:25, C venues – C nova Reviewed by Flora Herberich
Things aren’t going well in the LGBT+ community. Despite recent legalisation of same-sex marriage, non-straight people still struggle for acceptance. Gay venues are being bulldozed in the ever-advancing attack on people’s lives and communities called ‘re-generation’. On top of that, online spaces are increasingly becoming a substitute for real interaction: we all live in our own electronic bubbles and behind impenetrable glass facades.
These developments are illustrated in this show through three different characters: Ian, a doctor whose flat has turned into something more akin to an office block; Louie, a young sex worker who has fled home and sleeps on the tube; and Sid, who is refusing to leave his home, as he doesn’t feel comfortable any longer in a world that is becoming increasingly homogenous and heteronormative. All three are connected yet remain distant and unable to make deeper, emotionally meaningful contact with each other.
Much of what the show says is important to hear and I think this is a brave piece of work by an emerging company. It is well acted, yet at times I feel that the staging is a little too static – while obviously reflecting the isolated position of each character, it becomes somewhat repetitive. Perhaps with more time and a slightly larger playing space, this could be revised in a way that doesn’t take away from the essence of what the show was trying to say.
Even before being asked to review this show, its title stood out to me when I leafed through the Summerhall program, so I was delighted I had an opportunity to see it. Julia Croft takes us on a journey of (pop) cultural baggage attached to women’s bodies and the resulting impossibility for female artists to “just make work” as we are laden with images and meaning imposed on us by a patriarchal world.
Croft slowly and cleverly strips back layers and layers: for example she confronts the audience with their own experience of the male gaze by pointing out particular camera shots in well known film scenes. Julia later quotes some heavy and disturbing lyrics which are juxtaposed with a pop song about a princess finding her hero (or something like that), bravely pushing on at a point in the show where we might expect to have found liberation.
While this all may sound a bit like a performance lecture, I spent a really engaged hour enjoying Croft’s energy, playfulness with the audience and inventiveness. She’s a courageous and clever young performance maker and I’m looking forward to seeing her next piece of work already.
Fran & Leni (Theatre) Until 29 August, 15:05, Assembly George Square Theatre Reviewed by Rachel Cunningham
Old Trunk Theatre brings the tale of two lost punk souls alive. Fran and Leni is filled with the usual teenage angst, the challenges of growing up and growing old, but it also reveals some of the true heartache behind the characters’ tough exteriors.
It’s 1975, Fran is a Grade 8 pianist and Leni likes to spend her lunch breaks in the xylophone cupboard. The pair meet at school, and after Fran’s dreams of being a professional musician are quashed by her controlling father, they decide to start a punk band. Music offers them both an escape from a dark reality of rape, abuse and heartache. They feel protected by punk; it’s their barrier against the world.
Both characters are authentically represented, and through this authenticity the audience too are subject to the highs and lows of their experiences. Questions of womanhood are brought to the fore and answers to sexual identity and sexuality are discovered. Fran and Leni is a darkly romantic comedy that is effortlessly delivered and full of life.
In a time when revolutions are afoot and Napoleon Bonaparte is leading successful crusades in Europe, Percy Shelley is challenging the existence of God at Oxford University.
Shelley is a dreamer, filled with ambitions and desires for success. His companion Hog is more conservative, yet they both find themselves in trouble when Shelley releases his pamphlet, The Necessity of Atheism. Shelley also manages to enrage the High Chancellor of England, Lord Eldon, by hitting him square in the face when launching an apple from the college rooftop. The Head of the college, Dr Griffith, also initially feels troubled between making a true and just decision, and protecting his future under the patronage of Lord Eldon.
Anglia Ruskin Creative presents a whimsical tale, a light-hearted challenge to free speech and hierarchies of power. It also provides a more subtle challenge to gender norms by casting women in male roles. Both Lord Eldon and Hog, played by women, are unquestionably portrayed as male characters. The play highlights the capacity for women to fill roles of power and to negotiate a space that was once reserved for men only.
Covering the seats when we arrive, as well as decorating the stage, are the subject of the show: romance novels. The performer (Charlotte Gallagher) shares with us her life-long love of these novels and even has a pen name, ‘Carlotta de Galleon’, ready for her big break as a writer. So much is her interest in romantic novels that she even wrote her Masters thesis on the subject. But there’s one problem: she’s also a feminist. Can she reconcile her enjoyment of these books with the sad reality that they are “patriarchal, bourgeois and heteronormative”?
Highlighting the cliched nature of the writing, she wastes no time in engaging the audience in a hilarious re-imagining of a formulaic sex scene, substituting everyday kitchen implements for genitalia. As a performer, de Galleon is instantly likeable with a tongue-in-cheek, charismatic manner.
Charlotte wants to believe that these books might actually be feminist. She suggests that perhaps the heroines are not ‘pure’ virgins oppressed by the patriarchy, but strong women waiting to have sex until they find the ‘one’, and learning about self-worth along the way. And did we know that Mills and Boon is streaks ahead of Hollywood in terms of oral sex equality?
Her defence of these novels as feminist may be unconvincing, but the subject of this show is unusual and makes for a consistently funny hour.
Image 2: From If There’s Not Dancing at the Revolution, I’m Not Coming, used with permission. A photograph of a woman standing on a stage. She is wearing a pink, frilly party frock over a shirt and a tall hairpiece made of feathers. She is surrounded by mirrors.
Image 3: From Fran & Leni, used with permission. A black and white photograph of two women sitting on a doorstep in front of wooden doors. One is smoking and they both have cans of Red Stripe lager. They look distrustfully at the camera. There is a punkish style to how they are dressed: they have black eyeliner, the woman on the left has a leather jacket and the woman on the right is wearing DM boots.
Image 4 and the feature image: From The Necessity of Atheism, used with permission. A production photograph showing two actors both wearing 17th century men’s clothes. On the left hand side is a woman in a red waistcoat, she is holding a piece of paper and is appealing to the person on the other side. On the right hand side is a man in a blue waistcoat, he holds his hands to his chest.
Image 5: From Carlotta de Galleon – A Fool for Love!, used with permission. De Galleon lies on her back in a strapless black top and with a book open on her chest. She is facing right with her eyes closed, her long curly dark hair is spread out above and to the left of her.