By Aimee Smith
Waiting for the play to begin, I take in a gritty set of towering brown boxes, adorned with rubbish bags and dirty towels. The show heralds it’s beginning with a sound design depicting an industrial landscape. It all feels a bit serious, and that’s what I’m expecting as the performers make their first entrance. That’s when things get turned on their heads. What follows isn’t quite the solemn look at feminism I was expecting. In fact, this light-hearted feminist romp is far better.
HER takes us into the murky and mysterious depths of an elderly woman’s storage container. Our humble hard-hat wearing guides, Bev and Bruce, are hardly paragons of feminism. But what better way for Bev and Bruce to have a feminist awakening than by experiencing what it’s really like to be a woman through her possessions? A heavy dose of comedy ensues.
Through its journey through the ‘typical’ woman’s life, HER demonstrates many relatable women’s woes. We get a glimpse at the expectations heaped on girls from the moment they are born, consent issues, women’s reductions to their roles as mothers, the perils of aging, and some classic ‘mansplaining’. Our two performers dip and dive between a line-up of characters, expertly creating caricatures that have the audience in stitches.
It’s a show which points out the obvious to the already converted, stretching situations to the extreme end of the misogynist spectrum. Yet by playing the ridiculous, the show highlights just how absurd it is that we have these problems in the first place. For instance, in one scene, one performer transforms into a misogynistic lifeguard, mansplaining to a female pool-go-er just how a woman should be behaving at the swimming pool. It’s easy to laugh because surely this is an exaggeration. Yet in half the humour succeeds because it is familiar, and the inherent misogyny woven into every woman’s daily life becomes an unlikely subject for a wry chuckle.
At the end of the day, The PlaySpace don’t find any answers. Bev and Bruce may be transformed into enthusiastic yet bumbling feminists, but the audience are hardly left with a way forward. In the plays one particularly poignant scene, the performer/playwright acknowledges what the play is missing – a striking message, a call to action. She doesn’t know what that is yet, but she vows she will find it, someday. It makes the play all the more relatable, because we don’t have all the answers either, and right now we don’t need HER to give them to us. Instead we find comfort and solidarity in sharing our problems – and sharing a laugh over them too.
To read more about HER, head to the Nelson Fringe website here.