Women's Hour

Mon 17th – Sun 30th August 2015

reviews

Tess Davidson

at 09:05 on 24th Aug 2015

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There is a deep and pervading attitude in society that feminism and theatre is merely providing a platform for angry and embittered women to force their man-hating, anti-patriarchal diatribe upon the innocent masses. Not quite. The Women’s Hour is an original and unique take on gender imbalance in society, using new and innovative means to demonstrate the key issues that often, can be shouted down by other louder voices.

Louise Mothersole and Rebecca Biscuit of Sh!t Theatre are powerful in their performance, raising the question of what it means to be a woman, only to reveal that our definition for this is created by the shackles of society’s gender constraints. Touching upon several themes, the show focuses on the sexualisation of women, and how this is cultured from a young age. Using examples such as Kinder egg, which reinforces a gender binary through its focus on femininity, the smashing of the eggs before the audience is a powerful symbol of these two women taking a stand. This obliteration of gender constructs can also be noted through the use of music and song, many of which were original. Mocking cosmetic brands such as Maybelline, one song entitled “You’ll be a Woman Soon” was an incredibly powerful and hauntingly performed melodious representation of how young girls are forced into womanhood, the weight of this pressure to conform mirrored through the tremulous vocals.

It was an incredibly well-written, satirical portrayal of the representation and perception of women. The rapid, fast-pace of Mothersole and Biscuit was maintained by intervals of chaos; the batting of crumpets into the audience and uncontrollable dancing clear examples of this. Topical referencing was also on point, with sketches focusing on tampon tax, describing sanitary products as a “luxury”, and a sketch dedicated to highlighting the explicit sexualisation of cookery programs such as those of Nigella Lawson. It was a juxtaposition of extremes, jumping between – at times – extreme explicit sexual referencing and subtle vulnerability, with the two women performing a dialogue of experiences and memories to the audience.

Curious to see how the audience were responding, I peered around the dimly lit space. Much amusement, some nodding, and just in the corner of the front row, several red-faced and humiliated men, one of whom was constantly shifting position each time he felt uncomfortable – which was a lot. Yet I cannot help but feel that comfort is irrelevant in feminist productions. It is about facing reality – the cold harsh facts. Indeed, at times it felt that the extreme tone was a parody in itself, the ability to mock itself refreshing, and in the process, making the overall message even more powerful. The performance was exhilarating – feminism at its finest.

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Chloe St George

at 12:36 on 24th Aug 2015

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Feminism often gets a bad name, but Becca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole are fiercely unapologetic about this. Their show, Women’s Hour, is bold, in-your-face (quite literally sometimes) and a far cry from the reserved tones of Radio 4. Armed with satirical derision and relentless energy, and of course a bit of help from Delia and Nigella, they navigate the struggles of tampon tax, the sexualisation of young girls, and the inexplicable creation of gender-specific chocolate eggs.

Judging by their outfits, as well as their wit and determined freedom of expression, they could be the ruffian school girls of St Trinian’s. Their presence on stage is arresting and brazen, and their performance also brings something of Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley. Biscuit and Mothersole are also both wonderful singers, but they are not there to look and sound pretty. As Mothersole explains, standing around passively and politely is not just demeaning, but boring. Instead, their lyrics are relevant and often shocking.

The show is quick on its feet; and the wit is as sharp as the scene changing. These girls never let the same arguments within the feminism debate hang in the air, or slog round in circles. Nor does it ever feel like a monotonous rant or lecture. Most notably, it is a show that has clearly done its homework. In amongst clever jokes, bawdy malapropisms and references that stretch from Gertrude Stein to Tyra Banks, we find statistics, topical remarks and quotes from the ex-minister for women, all fed in seamlessly.

The intention behind the satire is never lost in the comedy, and more serious, stripped back moments in which the girls give accounts of personal encounters with gender inequality, without any gimmicks, are well integrated and effective. Watching them satirize the constant and oppressive commentary on women’s appearances by the media may be funny, but when Biscuit states plainly how she feels: that ‘the more attractive I am, the more seriously I’m taken as a person’, the point hits home rather powerfully. Unfortunately however, some of the lines are lost in the haste of the piece, or when they have Jason Derulo to compete with.

Women’s Hour is not the most subtle of shows, but nor does it try to be. Indeed, what is perhaps most effective is the fact that, as the two performers maniacally throw themselves around on stage, thrusting ridiculously, what we are witnessing is a scene not all that far removed from some of the sexist advertising of the 1950s or the blatant objectification in pop music videos today.

This performance is hilarious, irresistible, outrageous and necessary but not one for the faint-hearted.

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