Two air hostesses, uniforms pristine, posture upright, stand onstage. They command the audience with their warm but firm smiles. This is their job, after all.
Enough by Stef Smith is a play about the friendship between flight attendants Jane and Toni. Sort of. It’s about how the self can so easily slip away when you flit between hotel rooms. Sort of. And about the strain that women face everyday, just in existing. Sort of. And how the world is disintegrating around us. Sort of.
Toni and Jane bat poetic lines back and forth between them: ‘When I walk into a room, in my uniform. / There is a look that gets thrown my way. / […] / For I am the image of escape./ A symbol of sex appeal and sightseeing./ All high heels and higher standards.’ They illustrate their words through choreographed hand gestures. They go through the motions day after day after day, the lines becoming almost talismanic through repetition. The exits are here, here and here meets No Exit.
The poetic diction is undercut by their drunken antics; the daily stuff of their friendship seems to be getting drunk with each other in hotel rooms around the world. Yet, while one of them folds in themselves in drunken giggles and profanity, the other takes it upon themselves to maintain the cabin crew script. Moments of dialogue and connection are rare, which makes them all the more powerful when they do occur.
Toni and Jane’s friendship is multi-layered, like sediment. It seems at first that they’re the kind of work friends that can get drunk together and swap anecdotes about boyfriends and paint colours, without being able to confide in each other about the things that matter. But over the course of the play, a deeper core is revealed. Their past selves, the young women they once were, excited to see the world and to escape, remain fossilised in each other.
Behind the lipsticked masks, glimpses of the real women emerge through Louise Ludgate and Amanda Wright’s performances. Jane carefully cultivates the appearance of a perfect family life and home but is skewered by self-loathing. Toni appears to have an exciting, no-strings relationship but is desperately searching for tenderness from a man who abuses her.
Kai Fischer’s set, all clean lines, neutral colours and geometric shapes, gestures abstractly to the hotel rooms that Toni and Jane stay in around the world. All that travelling to end up in the same room. Insulated, isolated nomads. Over the course of the play, Fischer’s set starts to self-destruct. Toni and Jane peel back jagged pieces of floor to reveal sand and soil. Something is taking its course. Something elemental.
Enough constantly threatens to burst its own seams, as if it’s testing how much material is too much for one play to contain. Verbal images of sand, soil, broken nails and blood recur and become more insistent, undermining the immaculate images of work and life that Jane in particular has tried so hard to cultivate. Although it is not always clear how the jagged pieces of the play are supposed to be held together, Enough captures the feeling of being overwhelmed. ‘Have you seen the news?’ is a regular refrain but exactly what new atrocity has occurred remains unspecified.
Stef Smith’s play is haunted by feminism but its politics remain tantalisingly oblique. It unpicks the symbolism of air hostesses – as vessels on which men in particular project fantasies of escape and sexual freedom – and what it means to bear that weight. But its entanglement with enduring sexism is not fully grappled with. There are references to a movement of women but what that movement is or what is stands for is never defined. Instead what remains are feelings. The powerlessness of a life imploding, the fear of being left behind.
Enough is on at the Traverse till 25th August. More info here.