Reviews Edinburgh Fringe 2018 Published 8 August 2018

Edinburgh Review: Theatre Uncut’s Women on Power at Traverse Theatre

Until 13th August 2018

‘It feels like a moment’: Eve Allin responds to Theatre Uncut’s first female-only play series and discussion panel.

Eve Allin

Theatre Uncut: Women on Power at Traverse Theatre.

[I am the dragon breathing fire

Beautiful mane I’m the lion

Beautiful man I know you’re lying

I am not broken, I’m not crying, I’m not crying]

Don’t Hurt Yourself by Beyoncé

At 9am on Monday morning I drag myself out of my warm bed and into the crisp Edinburgh morning. The Mile is deserted and there’s hardly anyone in the cafes lining the streets. I arrive at the Traverse theatre and finish writing a review from the day before. At five minutes to ten I walk blurry eyed down into the bar. There are a few stools set up, and about five rows of chairs laid out. By the time it gets to 10am, people are lining the walls of the bar, standing and kneeling, to hear three extracts and participate in a panel. The rehearsed readings are wonderful – simple and powerful. The panel is empowering – Orla O’Loughlin talks about those plays which she felt have truly made a difference at the Traverse. It feels good to be talking freely about the way ticket prices create class divides in theatre, and why Muslim women are never ever seen on stage as multifaceted characters. Obviously this was not a “show” as such, and so it requires a response rather than a review. This is a collection of thoughts and words and songs that felt significant. All of the plays are from the Theatre Uncut: Women on Power series and can be downloaded from their website.

MAN: She said that power and the exchange of power

is erotic and that was the excuse for the

terrible things I did to her

WOMAN: find his fantasies turn to violence more find

I am able to accommodate

CONFESSIONS by Cordelia Lynn

This feels like a place to talk. A place to actually talk to each other and listen and confide and not just leave the theatre and look at our phones – it feels like a moment. A moment that we can all use and share and find. Where we listen. Like really, actually, properly, listen.

VOICE/S: Things are different.

HER: No, but…

VOICE/S: (cuts her off) Yeah, we’re all equal now!

HER: But…

VOICE/S: We’ve moved on!

HER: No.

SAFE by Niellah Arboine

The discussion around the imbalance in power between the sexes has been at the forefront of so many public debates, so as theatre has the power to make people see situations from different perspectives and encourage empathy, we saw a great opportunity for the Theatre Uncut model to provoke debate and galvanise action around these vital issues of inequality. It also inspired us to commission our first female-only collection of writers.

– Emma Callander (Co-Artistic Director of Theatre Uncut)

[Don’t feel bad if you can’t sing along

Just be glad you got the whole wide world

This us

This shit is from us

Some shit you can’t touch]

F.U.B.U. by Solange

Theatre Uncut give their plays out for free – free of rights and no purchase fee.

It seems only right to include some of those words in this review. It’s all about dissemination and sharing. How do we make truly activist theatre? How do we create work that responds to now, in a way that feels useful? In a way that feels like it’s actually making a difference?

Theatre Uncut seem to be trying to actively make a change. They are creating work for now that stretches globally. There’s always more we can do because of course there is. They are still starting out, so not everything is perfect, or refined. But it is always political.

People were always asking would I come in? Would I talk about my experiences as a vocal Muslim woman? They always used words like that – vocal, or… outspoken, or “unapologetic” – and of course, I didn’t mind, why would I? I am vocal, I mean, that’s how I’d got people’s attention in the first place… but, I guess, I’m not vocal about everything, all the time… you know?

A COIN IN SOMEBODY ELSE’S POCKET by Suhaiymah Manzoor Khan

Sitting in a room with people who agreed. Who know the same things and fundamentally agree but allow the space for a debate that feels interesting and stimulating, rather than frustrating. Holding my breath because this feels radical. Each short play is experimenting in its own way. Each play gives us a new keyhole view into another experience. New writers who are not playwrights. Commissioning actual emerging writers who have new voices and funny, poignant, interrogatory stories.

We all have a duty to question inequality, whether we are creating new theatrical work, or just in our daily lives. There is a clear gender, class and race imbalance within the theatre community and although there are incredible voices sharing important stories from minority communities there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

– Emma Callander (Co-Artistic Director of Theatre Uncut)

He made me lay down while he sat on the edge of the bed.
He ran his fingers over my calf.
He took my hand and placed it on his thigh.
He leant in to kiss me.
It wasn’t exactly repulsive but still I….
He was silent.
I was silent.
The event itself was ultimately…
Forgettable.

MORTAR By Sharon Clark

And what if this stretched further? What if this moved into a new realm and became the norm? Not radical but commonpace – talking and listening, free dissemination of art, overtly political work of a very high standard. How do we make that happen? What power structures need to be removed, broken down, collapsed for that to happen? And why has it taken so long?

Accessibility and provocation are at the heart of everything we do, so we would make all of our work free to experience; create far more time and space for us and our artists to dream and develop new ideas; have a team dedicated to supporting groups from as diverse a demographic as possible to engage with the plays and their issues; commission writers we love to explore ideas of social consciousness; work more closely with activists and charities working in the areas that our work explores, all this while also making sure that all of our artists and crew are paid well!

– Emma Callander (Co-Artistic Director of Theatre Uncut)

What is power?

How do women respond to it?

Why does it feel so incredibly, unavoidably gendered?

So many of the Women on Power pieces talk about sex and body.

Vulnerability and power grapple with each other – whether they are fighting or hugging, it’s unclear.

[See, if everything is sex

Except sex, which is power

You know power is just sex

You screw me and I’ll screw you too

Everything is sex

Except sex, which is power

You know power is just sex

Now ask yourself who’s screwing you]

Screwed by Janelle Monáe

Make work which responds to now, and feels real, feels like must be heard. Allow room for mistakes, allow room for failure. Do better. We can always do better. But for now, sit in a room and listen and discuss and go away and write.

Theatre Uncut: Women on Power is on at Traverse Theatre until 13th August. Click here for more details.

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Eve Allin is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

Edinburgh Review: Theatre Uncut’s Women on Power at Traverse Theatre Show Info


Written by Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, Cordelia Lynn, Niellah Arboine (Gal-Dem)

Cast includes Eleanor Westbrook, Callum Douglas, Creative Electric

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