Blurred Lines is a cutting reference to Robin Thicke’s chart-topping hit that had us all grimly singing along to ‘you know you want it’. However, the title is also a very apt one for describing the inconsistencies between women and the roles prescribed to them. Indeed, while Blurred Lines does a very good job at piggy-backing off the recent explosion of interest in ‘everyday sexism’ and its many cousins, the play addresses something much more fundamental.
The very clever use of contemporary music in the play is a grim reminder that however close we are to smashing that proverbial glass ceiling, the gender divide is one that is still very much in play. Just as the lyrics of Thicke’s Blurred Lines tend to wash over us in a sea of giddy funk-basslines, so does the deeper truth of structural imbalance between the sexes. In fact, this structural imbalance is even conveyed on a literal level due to Carrie Cracknell’s fantastic direction and staging.
Indeed, Blurred Lines is a whistle-stop tour through contemporary women’s issues, addressed admirably through a real variety of lenses. While the cast is all-female, the roles they play are genuinely kaleidoscopic. The first section is gleefully meta and incredibly funny, and we soon realise that the age-old play-within-a-play is analogous to the limiting and oppressive structure of gender politics; the freedom to choose who you are is not much of a freedom if the choice doesn’t really exist. The last section – a post-play Q&A – was particularly effective at illustrating this, supported interminably by the wonderful Marion Bailey as a male director-cum-intellectual. Importantly, however ‘fictional’ these characters are, they are no less fictional than the ones that women have to play every day.
None of this would have really worked, though, if not for the gob-smackingly good host of actors. A particular stand-out was the fiercely strong and versatile Michaela Coel, who I heartily expect to see dazzling our screens in no time. While Blurred Lines is occasionally hard to follow, it ultimately benefits from its necessary complications. Things aren’t black and white anymore – if they ever were – they’re grey and blurred. Indeed, don’t expect to sit down and hear one story, one problem: Blurred Lines is the story of all of us, and it’s everyone’s problem. Take your friend, your sister, your mum, your dad, your boyfriend – this is a play that everyone needs to see.