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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