Flushed

Thu 2nd – Sun 26th August 2018

reviews

Amy Barrett

at 10:09 on 5th Aug 2018

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Catherine Cranfield’s Flushed invites everyone on a trip to the girls’ toilet. The show follows a standard night out with wonky eyeliner, drunken singing to ABBA, and, of course, no loo roll left in the cubicle. However, this night out comes with a twist; Marnie is diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Insufficiency.

With an ambiguous title, and a set of just two toilets, I had little idea what to expect of the narrative. Yet it quickly became clear that Flushed tells the story of two sisters, Marnie and Jen muddling through their twenties in a girl’s favourite place; the bathroom. ‘Girl code’ states different bathrooms have different purposes and Flushed demonstrates this perfectly, making men finally understand why girls go to the toilet together. But while Initially relatable and comedic, Flushed takes a dark turn when Marnie’s early menopause takes its toll on both sisters’ lives.

Georgia Phillips (Marnie) and Iona Champain (Jen) should be commended for their roles as they ably struck the balance between a comedic, carefree, sisterly relationship, and family trauma. Phillips in particular mastered the nuances of her vocal expressions according to which bathroom situation the girls were in: over-exaggerated tones when chatting through toilet cubicles, desperate whispers on her bathroom floor whilst accepting her newfound condition, and the agitated, whilst caring, voice you put on whilst rubbing your friend’s back when they’ve drunk too much at a party were all excellently performed.

The technical team must also be commended for their use of sound. Whilst the songs had been judiciously selected, it was the subtle muffling of club anthems underscoring the girls’ deep toilet conversations that successfully transported the audience to cubicles with them. This, alongside the contemporary references and quickly paced script, made it easy for the audience to feel like they too are in the bathrooms, and subsequently sympathise with Marnie’s situation genuinely, as she feels like a friend as opposed to an actress.

Whilst I primarily enjoyed the production, there were a few factors who detracted from the show’s success. Champain’s performance often felt over-acted which perhaps lessened the severity of the production’s message; a reminder that Jen was not genuinely experiencing the highs and lows of her twenties for the first time. Furthermore, I often struggled to see the facial expressions of both actresses as much of the blocking required the girls to be sat on the floor. In a venue with an un-raised stage much of the expression was lost within these scenes, and I would sometimes become distracted as they fell out of sight.

Flushed is a poignant piece of theatre that allows you to laugh, resonate and sympathise, while raising awareness of Premature Ovarian Insufficiency. In more than one sense, it’s a trip to the ladies room you will never forget.

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Ella Gryf-Lowczowska

at 10:18 on 5th Aug 2018

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Flushed brought tears to my eyes.

No really, after the final applause I made a hasty get away and then plonked myself down on a window sill and sobbed uncontrollably, much to the disconcertion of the customers sat inside Pizza Express…

The play is a sister act filled with tenderness, grief, and a whole lot of FEMALE STRENGTH. Marnie and her younger sister Jen obviously experience many of the same anxieties and cheerful frivolities that all girls do, like worrying about the impression created when one spends ages doing a poo on a first date and then laughing about it afterwards whilst belting out Dancing Queen because, apparently, “we owe it to Meryl”. Clad in pink on black and black on pink respectively, Marnie and Jen are inseparable but dissimilar. Jen is clearly somewhat of a childish character, who lives off her big sister’s income and parties all night until the drinks stage their reappearance in the toilet basin. Marnie, on the other hand, is a responsible character. Marnie is instinctively caring and endlessly generous to her kid sister; she teaches primary school children and spends her Sunday afternoons in The White Company, cooing over ‘adorable’ children’s footwear. But the happy life that Marnie seemed destined for is viciously wrenched out of her hands by something that many of us will probably never have to experience: premature ovarian insufficiency. Basically, early menopause. With that one diagnosis Marnie’s dreams are flushed away by fate.

Georgia Phillips delivers a stellar performance as Marnie and Iona Champain added more than just a touch of amusement. In fact, one of the major strengths of this play is its humour; the gaffes that the sister’s share and the jokes that Jen comes out with are very original and highly relatable. Catherine Cranefield’s masterful writing completely disguises the fact that Flushed is the debut production of the new Manchester-based fringe theatre company Theatre Unlocked. Ms Cranefield’s intention was to bring awareness to the horrible reality that confronts women who are told that they are “barren” and forever unable to have children of their own. The two modest toilets that constituted the set served the actresses well as they demonstrated the physical challenges of premature ovarian insufficiency, while simultaneously capturing the solidarity that women share in all bathroom-related matters.

I pride myself on being a harsh critic, however I cannot find fault with this play. It is rare to come across a play that is heart-warming as well as heart-rending, and educational as well as accessible. Flushed has set the bar very high indeed. You would be foolish to miss it.

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