“What makes you a woman?”the young actresses of the St Marylebone theatre company are wondering. They try to find answers by presenting a chronology of women’s positions through well recreated scenes from different decades, starting from 1918, when some women gained the right to vote. The entrance of the eleven young women on stage is dynamic and their lines strong and moving. With this introduction, they inform us about the purpose of the play, their thoughts and concerns on the position of women. From the scene of a young suffragette who is verbally attacked by her parents for her disobedience, the talented actresses take us to the 1940s with women working in industry. They discuss about how working makes them feel that they actually contributeto the world, how difficult it is to be working and looking after a family at the same time, and how unfair it is for them to be getting paid half of what their male peers are.
Rosalind Franklin tells us her sad story of not being recognised for her work on DNA and of her ideas being stolen by her male colleagues. And then it’s the 1960s – the “housewife era” – which the young actresses hilariouslyportray with short dialogues between married couples of the time. They describe the perception of the genders at that time as “the men make the money and the women make the home”. “Our job is to entertain”, says one of the housewives in a meaningful way. Of course, all male characters are played successfully by the young women. In the 1970s, women read the Female Eunuchand they are sick of fighting for equality, and in the 1980s women are job interviewed in a male dominated world. The very funny body language of the girls simulating the sexual intentions of the male bosses is followed by a scene where Margaret Thatcher is criticised for her not women-friendly policies.
It’s the 21stcentury and women are sexually assaulted every day on buses, in the streets and at parties. What do the other women do for it? They gossip, they judge, they criticise. “She is such a slut, she is asking for it”, they say. The emotional monologue of one of the victims tells the truth about our reality. There is no sisterhood; women do not support each other. A famous “controversial” female journalist criticises fat women, women who leave their jobs to become mothers, and firmly believes that women do not want equality. The next two scenes before the finale present the mother-daughter relationship, and the real friendship between women. Finally the eleven girls are all back on stage to summarise and encourage women to support other women.
What makes you a woman presents the timeline of women’s position in society in clever and funny way, and it is performed amazingly well by the young actresses. Without expensive costumes and accessories, they manage to recreate the scenes and make us see what they want us to see. What makes you a woman is a play which makes you feel optimistic about the future of women, as well as about the next generation of actresses.
What Makes You a Woman
the Space on the mile (Venue 39)
13 August – 18 August
Image: retusj via Flickr