EFR - Reviews of I'll Have What She's Having

I'll Have What She's Having

Thu 2nd – Mon 27th August 2018

reviews

Katherine Knight

at 09:53 on 6th Aug 2018

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Jess and Vic are happy. They’re so happy, in fact, that they have to keep telling each other they’re happy, clinging to each other and screaming it in a mania over and over and over. It’s an everyday conversation then taken to an absurd extreme, but it all feels strangely familiar – ‘I’ll Have What She’s Having’ is a performance about performative behaviour, about pretending we’re fine when we’re very much not and learning to come to terms with that imperfection.

It’s also incredibly funny. Although this is the first collaborative effort between Brodie and Bianchi, the chemistry between the two is palpable, and they bounce off each other with an intuitive energy from the very first scene. “Twenty-five is the best age to have a baby. You’re twenty-five now, aren’t you Jess?” Vic asks with palpable innocence, while Jess communicates with a glance what could easily be said in a four-letter word. What starts with just two women introducing themselves becomes a stage for one-upmanship, then quickly evolves into a series of flashbacks, spirited dialogues and touching monologues.

Both characters are convincing, well-rounded individuals – Vic, who encapsulates the ‘yummy mummy’ lifestyle, is highly-strung, but down-to-earth enough to find her Prince Charming in a guy from Cumbernauld on a girl’s holiday, even before the cracks in her ‘perfect lifestyle’ start to show. Jess, meanwhile, is proud of her laid-back lifestyle (she has a “degree in Sparknotes”) but is still allowed serious ambitions; we see an interview with a publisher fall apart before our eyes. However, it’s important to note that neither woman is portrayed as ‘complete’ or ‘beyond reproach’. It unusually highlights that there’s not one ideal of feminine perfection we aspire to, and that’s the problem – we’re constantly pulled in every direction at once, towards motherhood and femininity, and the show takes care to emphasise that neither character feels as if they’ve made the right choice.

There are some interesting staging choices. Bananas, for instance, are used throughout in a variety of different scenarios, which didn’t quite end up having the phallic significance expected. Although the fruit felt slightly lost in the grand scheme of things, a clothesline at the back offered a double-dimension to one memorable scene which felt particularly touching.

There are not many other shows which have left me thinking about them for the rest of the day, actively re-examining my thought processes and the way I interact with the world. Watching two women stand side by side and admit that they’re not fine shouldn’t feel revolutionary in 2018 – but there’s something about Jess and Vic which makes us feel a bit less alone. Even when we’ve convinced ourselves we’re so, so happy.

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Louis Harnett O'Meara

at 13:22 on 6th Aug 2018

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I left more impressed than I expected to be. The two-woman show ‘I’ll Have What She’s Having’ opens with a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ (though ‘on-the-nose’ might be more apt) monologue from the irritatingly sorted Victoria, played by Victoria Bianchi. She had a baby at just the right time and couldn’t be happier – and don’t you know she never really had to worry about that weight-gain after pregnancy, and sure the PhD on top of that might be a lot of pressure but it’s no problem for her. If you haven’t figured out that she’s smug yet, she’ll be sure to overact until you get the picture. Cut to Jess, played by Jess Brodie, on her right: she’s 25, serves coffee, shags around and downs tequila while saying things like ‘YOLO!’ — and god does she love it! Hint hint: she’s Victoria’s opposite.

It’s an obvious formula for what they want to do. ‘I’ll Have What She’s Having’ explores contemporary womanhood: the ways in which women, particularly today, always need to reflect a version of themselves that every other woman wants to be. If their acting is a little over-the-top at first, it becomes clear that it’s only an expression of the oversimplified selves they feel they need to project – the modern age is at fault! (Although the acting is still a bit dodgy…) While on the surface the two seem so very different, scratch below their social media posts and small talk and you find two genuine people who maybe aren’t so happy with themselves. Maybe they want to have more fun, or more direction in their lives. As the two characters develop in tandem their more vulnerable, genuine personalities become clearer. And about time too.

By the end, I felt that the show really had potential. The two actors, though a little blunt initially, managed to demonstrate a good deal more nuance than I had first suspected. I only wish they’d gotten there sooner. The show could have delved deeper into the trials and insecurities of the 21st century female if they had wasted less time on hit-and-miss gags of poorly stereotyped characters and uncomfortable 'cheeky' dance scenes. And I’m still a little baffled about the bit with the bananas – but that’s another story.

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