Blurred Lines at the National Theatre

Blurred lines: video and song, women in contemporary society, actresses, breaking the fourth wall, prostitution, rape, misogyny, with character face.

Necessarily the play skirts over big issues of women in society and equality by trying to tackle all of them. The emotional journey is intense. An exclusively female cast of seven this devised play is a series of sketches of contemporary society from the woman’s point of view. The scenes are interspersed with music that too comments on women’s place referencing, indirectly the song that is the title of the play.

The form consciously plays with the notion of a play. There are scenes played behind the fourth wall and others that break it. The play opens with the actresses reciting typecasts, ‘Northern, bubbly’, ‘divorced’, ‘older, with character face’. This is interrupted by one of the black actresses pleading for work, that she’s prepared to do anything to get more work. For me there were three memorable scenes. The first a discussion between husband and wife where the husband justifies his use of prostitutes as an honest transaction. The second an intense journey following a teenagers coming of age and unfortunate rape made more powerful through a scene where the rapist and victim’s mothers’ try to persuade each other of their point of view. The last an exquisite parody of a theatre Q&A where the male director is challenged to justify clothing his female actress in only lingerie for a particular scene and the actress sits mute – merely a decoration on the platform.

I liked that the play tackled the themes it did. I thought the scenes were incredible in their emotional intensity. I wondered whether the sketch style form was right for the play. Any one of the the scenes presented could have been a play in its own right. I would probably have preferred a longer play to give the space to explore more fully. Having said that perhaps this is the warm up – preparing audiences for the female point of view.

I hope that we continue to see diversity of voices in the theatre so the male director with his lingerie clad actress will be just what they are here – a sad joke.

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Waiting room

The official waiting rooms have been taken away. The substitution requires you to pay to wait. Waiting as a business. Hardly the stuff of Hemingway, no romance, no longing, lust or sunshine. It’s cold drafts, blue morning light and a sense of purposeful energy that is directed at… Waiting.

Bob Marley sings about shooting the sherif whilst eleven single people dressed in their uniform of black, brown or grey outerwear hunch. They hunch over their coffee. They hunch over their free newspapers. They hunch over their laptops or phones, catching up. It’s a serious business, waiting.

The staff bustle, quickly clearing the tables. A blue screen displays the departure times. The announcements are muffled but echo around. The track changes – upbeat is it Queen… No. I can’t figure this one out.

Through the windows you can see the trains and platforms. There’s no entry directly. This isn’t a waiting room. Except someone just walked by, he didn’t sit down with a coffee to read his messages. He was walking too fast for that. There was a clunk. The draft changes direction. A few people look up. He slams the door. He’s escaped. He’s walking along the platform. His rucksack over one shoulder. His coat flaps open. There are no alarms. He’s not accosted for evidence, his ticket to travel. He could be going anywhere: Kings Lynn, Sunderland, Hull or Edinburgh. He could stow away. He could jump off, catch a boat, sail away with his ruck sack swinging and coat flapping.

Everyone else carries on with their newspapers, email and hot drinks.

KT Tunstall sings, “suddenly I see”

The Pass

I wouldn’t have gone to see this play by John Donnelly at the Royal Court as it’s about football. Except it really isn’t.

It’s set around football and follows Jason and Ade. They are 17 year olds on the cusp of their football career and we see them again at the start of their middle age. In between we follow Jason becomes a successful and fabulously famous footballer who at 29 and with dodgy knees realises that nothing that happened in the preceding 12 years was meaningful.

It’s set in three hotel rooms that are each better appointed than the last to reflect Jason’s increasing success.

Russell Tovey as Jason was tremendous – he appeared to visibly age through the evening.

The play was a game of two halves. The first tramped along; dynamic, challenging, funny and tight. The second half less so – I don’t mean to diminish the second half. I simply wanted it to sparkle as much as the first.

What I liked was the way that during the course of the the play my sympathies moved from Jason to, the largely absent, Ade. In the end was left with the feeling that whilst Ade had not succeeded in the big league he had succeeded at life.