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Comedy Fringe Theatre

Review: Bloody Difficult Women

The piece is not afraid to highlight how politicians often refuse to go against the grain, or to refuse to do what is right for the greater good, because of a fear of losing control. Bloody Difficult Women is a must watch show.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

To say there is a lot to unpack in Tim Walker’s Bloody Difficult Women at the Assembly Rooms would be an understatement. It is a timely study of post Brexit Britain and our politics, the rancid hatred that governs our divided society, and politicians who, in the last few years, have more often than not been more concerned about their own control, or lack thereof, than being morally upstanding. These themes are explored through the lens of Miller v Secretary of State case, where Gina Miller and Theresa May are compared and contrasted as two ‘bloody difficult women’.

The play starts with an introduction to both May and Miller and their backgrounds. The initial scene showcases the intersecting financial and racial privileges of the women respectively: with May, from a white middle class background, and Miller, who grew up in Guiana in a wealthy family, and has since moved to London and become part of the wealthy elite there too. Miller’s racialised background later becomes relevant again, as the show delves into the racist hatred she was subjected to online following the start of the case. As an immigrant, the play shows how she was subjected to the same kind of vile, xenophobic hatred much of the Brexit campaign was based on.

Scenes of Miller’s husband, concerned about his wife’s safety and trying to hire security for her following the racist and xenophobic abuse she received in and out of court, were then directly contrasted with scenes of the Daily Mail’s editing office. Here, Paul Dacre, former editor of the Daily Mail, attempts to write headlines about Miller – and argues she is the type of person Brexit is trying to get rid of. Whilst the Daily Mail scenes were exceptionally sobering, as the sexist, racist hatred that dictates the narratives of their headlines were explored, Andrew Woodall provides a laugh out loud funny performance of Dacre, highlighting the talented nature of Walker and his cast as they are able to showcase such a sensitive topic in a respectful yet funny manner.

Throughout the play, the issue of control over women is also explored. Theresa May, as the second female Prime Minister, attempts to assert her control over a divided party and its male politicians, who spend their time mansplaining concepts to her. One way she attempts to achieve this is through her very controlled image, and often ‘cold’ exterior, which is much discussed throughout the show. Walker effectively contrasts this to Miller, who highlights how she is often also seen as being ‘feisty’ yet ‘gets things done’ in a moving scene of two contrasting monologues. Walker’s masterpiece highlights how male politicians and advisors try to control May’s political moves, but also how Dacre tries to exert his control over the narrative that the British public is fed about Miller, by twisting facts and providing the UK with its most infamous fake news outlet. Walker, again, manages to achieve this in a funny yet moving way.

Image: Mark Senior, Riverside Studios

Finally, the play finishes with the idea that women, including Miller and May, are held to a much higher standard than men, something they cannot control yet, like all women, are subjected to. The final scene of the play is set in the present, with Johnson as the new Prime Minister. Both women lament how ironic it is that they are called ‘bloody difficult women’, yet argue they would never have got away with Johnson’s farcical behaviour given the higher bar they are held to. The final line of the play is May deploring this ‘never ending farce’. It leaves the audience wondering whether Walker is referring to Johnson, the racism that has become part of the furniture in our society, the sexism that turns determined women into ‘bloody difficult women’, or in fact whether Walker is referring to all of the above.

This is an exceptionally moving and timely piece of art: an apt criticism of UK society and politics. The piece is not afraid to highlight how politicians often refuse to go against the grain, or to refuse to do what is right for the greater good, because of a fear of losing control. Bloody Difficult Women is a must watch show.

Bloody Difficult Women’ is at Assembly Rooms (Ballroom) on August 6-10, 12-21, 23-28 at 14:30.

Image credits: Mark Senior, Riverside Studios, provided to The Student as press images.