Women, Power and Politics, Tricycle Theatre, London
Tuesday 15 June 2010
Last year, the Tricycle Theatre scored a notable hit with The Great Game, a cycle of short plays about Afghanistan. Women, Power and Politics follows the same model, exploring the titular subject from many angles through nine specially commissioned short plays, written exclusively by female dramatists and interspersed with verbatim vignettes derived from interviews with contemporary politicians.
It's a characteristically bold and imaginative piece of programming by artistic director, Nicolas Kent; the entire enterprise is directed, in a heroic feat of stamina and tenacity, by Indhu Rubasingham, and it's performed by a winningly vivid and versatile company of 12 actors. It's also well timed, coming after a general election that produced a parliament where women still make up only 22 per cent of MPs. The plays are categorised into those dealing with the historical background ("Then") and those which follow the issues through to the present day ("Now").
The result brims with good-humoured vigour but the pieces themselves are decidedly uneven. The Great Game sustained its length by taking you into largely uncharted territory. The plays here occasionally show the strain of trying to put a fresh spin on familiar material. Some feel like 10-minute sketches over-extended to half an hour; others struggle to cram a full-length drama into the confines of a brief one-acter. The piece that fits its space best is Zinnie Harris's The Panel, a mordantly funny look at the pompous, variously prejudiced deliberations of an all-male selection committee who are tasked to choose a manager from a women-only short list. One likely candidate is quietly sidelined when it emerges that she once threatened to sue because she thought she'd been passed over for promotion.
Are women-only shortlists the way forward or an insult to women? Are women less good than men at solidarity? Should the interests of party and family necessarily come before those of political progress for women in particular? Does groomed girl-power collude with sexual exploitation? These issues are debated in plays as diverse as Joy Wilkinson's Acting Leader, an uneasily jokey-sad run-down of Margaret Beckett's defeat by Tony Blair in the 1994 leadership election, and Bloody Wimmin, a shrewd and witty piece by Lucy Kirkwood that revealingly cuts between the unkempt, defiantly consciousness-raising protesters at Greenham Common and a slick, media-friendly, gender-inclusive present-day climate-change campaign.
Two of the most striking pieces dramatise conflict between a pair of extremely powerful women. Moira Buffini's irreverently comic Handbagged charts the fraught relations of the Queen and Mrs Thatcher, as the monarch takes up what, to the PM, is a wet and socialist attitude to such questions as sanctions against South Africa and the miners' strike. In Sam Holcroft's bracingly bizarre Pink, a female Prime Minister whose husband has been caught buying sex toys from a porn website tries to blackmail its self-made magnate. For a woman, we gather, the political is more prone to be dogged by the personal.
To 17 July (020 7328 1000)
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 2 Antonio Martin shooting: Police and protesters clash over teenager's death just five miles from Ferguson, Missouri
- 3 Northern Lights above Britain: Stunning Aurora Borealis illuminates Northumberland sky on Christmas Eve
- 4 British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
- 5 New route to Mars could make manned mission much cheaper and easier
Christmas Day TV guide 2014: What to watch from Strictly Come Dancing to the story of Frozen
Cruel Woman in Black prank sees cinema-goers terrified by movie poster - watch their reactions
Best underrated Christmas movies: From Trading Places to While You Were Sleeping
Game of Thrones season five: First preview clip shows a beardy Tyrion, a moody Cersei and a distressed Arya
Christmas TV guide 2014: The best shows to watch from Doctor Who to Downton Abbey
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food