Twice Over is a highly intelligent piece of new writing with an excellently crafted script, dripping with a political contempt relatable to women everywhere. Acoustic guitar serenades the audience as we enter the only-slightly-cramped thirty seat venue, setting the tone for an intimate performance.
A mixed media performance combining music, theatre and spoken word to brilliant emotional effect, Twice Over compares and contrasts the experiences of two working-class women under ‘hopeless’ female Prime Ministers: one a working woman deliberating over voting for Thatcher in 1983 (Eve Simpson), and one a politics student disillusioned with Theresa May in 2017 (Francesca Sellors). These characters aren’t named, and their anonymity allows them to represent the political strife of women throughout history.
The melody during the interlude sets a precedent for folk music interspersed with speech throughout the performance. Although they sound recognisable, these are original songs by Simpson herself and form part of a recurring theme of combining the traditional with the modern. In a show which asks us to think about how the political climate of the 1980s is echoed today, the importance of emphasising the familiar and novel isn’t lost.
Indeed, the script is littered with quotes from across British politics and notably concludes with a nod to Kinnock’s instantly recognisable ‘I warn you’ speech from the days leading up to Thatcher’s re-election in 1983. Each of these quotes prompts a tug of recognition at the back of the mind. Like the songs, these give a brief note of familiarity to the performance while at the same time re-contextualising words the audience has heard dozens of times.
The performance is punctuated with voice clips from Thatcher and May’s speeches, putting the characters’ struggles in context with what they’re hearing from women who are supposed to empower them, supposed to lead them – but repeatedly fail them.
The cast of two standing side-by-side on a bare set juxtaposes past and present, women’s fear and women’s empowerment, social immobility and social opportunity. However, although thematically successful, it’s simply not an effective use of the space and isn’t engaging to watch. The evocative words of the script aren’t matched by what we see on stage; one might wonder whether it makes for better poetry than theatre. Based on experiences from the writers’ lives, Twice Over is clearly close to their hearts, and to convey that passion on stage would take the show to new heights.
Twice Over gives a voice to women struggling in the political sphere due to patriarchal values, lack of education and class superiority. Although it is a timely piece, its message could be missed by a failure to engage the audience.
Image: Katie May Anderson
Twice Over is playing at Greenside Studios @ Nicolson Square, Fern Studio (Venue 209)
At 18:40, until 10th August
Get tickets here