You have to hand it to this motley crew of Ottawa teenagers - feminism is a tough topic to broach in youth theatre. This production, that goes from the suffragettes to sexism in the office, has a lot of heart; however, the mediums of song and dance didn’t seem particularly compatible with the subject matter. It is a brave choice of subject, but the piece lacks the subtlety necessary to both move and adequately inform the audience.
The delivery was fairly monotonous, and the actors didn’t so much create and inhabit characters as describe well-known historical events – ‘Hi, I’m Emily Davidson, and I’m real mad that women haven’t got this vote yet. The races? Sure, I’d love to go!’
The physicality of the young performers was impressive; they danced, cartwheeled, and hoisted each other high into the air. While this made the show far from staid and static, at times I was unsure as to whether I was watching a cheerleading routine or a play about the feminist struggle.
The individual manifestos of each performer at the end were a nice touch of honesty, succesfully expressing the need to get young people passionate about the feminist cause: ‘I am in a play about feminism because I want my little sister to have the same opportunities I have’; ‘I am in this play because I want to be judged on my brain, not my bra size’. For a student group, Criminals, Lunatics is a great achievement in its tackling of tricky subject matter that most adolescents wouldn’t touch with a bargepole. However, the production was far too based on the presumption of tell, not show. It would have been a far more interesting and hard-hitting piece if the group had focused on creating subtler characters and scenarios, and not tried to cover quite so much, as the show ended up being a fairly generalal portrayal of women’s suffrage over 200 years in the span of less than an hour.