I Told You This Would Happen is playing as part of the Calm Down Dear festival of feminism at Camden People’s Theatre and while it’s undeniably a feminist piece, dealing with domestic abuse, sexual manipulation and male entitlement – and is likely to be horribly relatable to many female audience members – it feels like it needs more work as a piece.
This is clearly a deeply personal piece for writer and performer Kathryn Beaumont. The story of a destructive romantic relationship is told from beginning to end and we see it all through the eyes of the female protagonist. The dialogue evolves from third-person narrative to first-person but it is implied from the outset that the unnamed girl at the centre of the piece is the woman on stage.
I can not say for sure what elements of the show are drawn directly from Beaumont’s own experiences but the performance style and literature we are handed as we enter suggest it is at least partly autobiographical. I tried to determine as I was watching it whether this explained my dissatisfaction with the piece. Perhaps I was just uncomfortable with seeing such a difficult personal tale played out in an intimate setting? Possibly this was the artist’s intention, a way of forcing the audience to confront unpleasant realities?
Ultimately, however, I realised that my issues lay not so much in the honesty of the work as in the rejection of genuine expression. Beaumont has chosen to present the narrative as a case to be solved, using pieces of evidence, physical and recounted, from the relationship to determine exactly where everything went wrong for the couple. The set, her costume and elements of the script recall the tropes of a noir detective piece. However, she doesn’t go quite far enough into those tropes to make them convincing. The piece lacks consistency and the design (which, on the whole, is excellent) doesn’t feel as closely married to the text as it might have been.
It’s a difficult balance. The more stylised elements also make the piece more difficult to connect with as an audience member. It’s likely the narrative is strong enough to stand on its own merits, but it’s drowned out by the repeated flirtations with noir and the often deeply intrusive technical elements. Authenticity is key to personal storytelling pieces and it’s absence is an issue here. If the intention was to mimic a kind of dissociation caused by abuse - hence the inclusion of the detective character – well, that’s an interesting idea but the execution is muddled.
Beaumont is clearly a talented and passionate artist and elements of her script really sing, but in its current form I Told You This Would Happen feels a bit undercooked and would certainly benefit from further development and a stronger directorial hand.
Susanna Hislop, Hannah Silva and Louise Orwin on feminist theatre and Calm Down Dear