A riotous romp through the history of the female body, the patriarchy and the bad science behind the titular gender myth. This accomplished sketch show takes the form of theatre performance-come-3D essay, with an impromptu poem and a dash of over-zealous contemporary dance thrown in for good measure.
Unapologetically honest and fiercely funny
The premise is fairly simple: a scientist (Sophie Giddens) and an arts student (Eve Shotton) are paired up and tasked with a presentation on ‘the point of women.’ What begins as an attempt at a science and sociology lecture is derailed by Eve’s dramatization of their research, firstly through a series of increasingly wacky character portraits of historical figures. Sigmund Freud and Queen Victoria make particularly memorable appearances! The duo are perfectly matched, Sophie supplying the slightly sheepish straight woman to Eve’s anarchic energy, for example, when she portrays her sexual history through the medium of interpretive dance. The duo have great chemistry and comic timing, bouncing off each other and around the space in a polished performance.
The narrative, although fairly simplistic, is propelled forwards by Giddens and Shotton with buoyant momentum. There’s plenty of information to take on board along the way, including some wacky facts on the history for women and sex: did you know that female hysteria was historically prescribed with genital massaging? This is certainly news to me! Unapologetically honest and fiercely funny, they delight in the outrageous and wonderfully weird history of the female body, all the while exposing the so-called ‘bad science’ of the (most often) men who take it upon themselves to 'explain' women’s bodies.
It may, perhaps, have been more satisfying to see the initial premise moved forwards and developed, in order to provide a more nuanced approach to the feminist agenda; at times the piece feels a little safe, leaning on an already established narrative of historical patriarchal oppression. Particularly at a time when feminism is already embedded in the public consciousness, it seems more important than ever to tackle the complications and insecurities of the movement’s development. Nevertheless, this is mostly compensated for by sheer energy of the actors and the production is still hugely enjoyable.
Overall, this is an informative and explosive investigation into women, sex and science. Exposing gender myths and blasting the ‘bad science’ of the patriarchy out of the water. People Zoo are full of life and energy, and I would love to see how they might challenge and tackle more complex feminist concerns in the future.