Heather Litteer approaches her subject, women on- and off-stage, with a wry eye and deft, humorous touch (admittedly aided by the never-failing power of hindsight). Frequently addressing the audience, she confidently catches our eye, relaying her memories, as told by her acutely-observed, emotionally-honest characters. She held my attention for the whole hour, and I was never confused about which person she was playing in the moment: no mean feat in a solo show with about 10+ characters. At one particular point, she whirled her silk dressing gown around her, stating ‘this is a big fan moment but it wouldn’t fit in my suitcase’, thereby asking us to engage with the suspension of disbelief in a fringe show. It genuinely warmed my at-that-point undecided self to her, and therefore to this production more broadly.
Heather Litteer is a subtle, strong actress who will keep you entertained throughout.
The issues with which Litteer engaged were undeniably important, focussing on the stereotyping of women in Hollywood and the arts more broadly. She exhibited her consciousness of this casual sexism and everyday tropes through personal experience, resurrecting parts in films she had long finished filming – seriously, look her up on IMDB – through the repeated theatrical device of staging phone calls with casting directors and the experience of the ensuing filming. ‘Yeah no, I’m available, it’s perfect for me’, she cooed, becoming increasingly less enthused and confident as time wore on. The characters she simultaneously had played and was playing were described in the exasperatingly familiar, staccato diction of casting calls for women: ‘Vera. 20s. Blonde. Smart’ which, as time wore on, became ‘30s. Getting a tad old. Abused. Used to be pretty’, demonstrating the swift rejection of women no longer in their twenties, and the yawn-inducing caricatures faced by females in the arts full-stop. This disillusionment was reflected visually, too, in the simple but stunning trick of Litteer throwing the glitter into the air with which she had previously dusted her body: as Hollywood’s golden sheen began to fail her, so the air’s glimmer dissipated into nothingness.
Litteer, then, was a confident performer bringing topical issues to the stage. So far, so good. The problem was that I didn’t quite understand how this strand of narrative fit into its parallel, a dissection and display of Litteer’s relationship with her mother. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to, but, in that case, I didn’t see what place both plots had in the one play. And, for me, the nudity at the end did not add anything to the performance. Perhaps it was a demonstration of empowerment: Lemonade’s blurb does sell itself as an affirmative tale of rediscovering and reclaiming one’s self. But the issue of female nudity, particularly female nudity performed for spectators, is littered with landmines, and the semiotics of ‘empowerment’ in relation to feminist theory no less inflammatory. Lemonade, then, is not perfect, but it is a performance that engages with problematic issues around women and their treatment in the art world, onstage and off, and Heather Litteer is a subtle, strong actress who will keep you entertained throughout that conversation.