Nadia Kamil’s show Wide Open Beavers is unashamedly and unapologetically feminist and deserves a feminist review. Consequently, in the next four hundred words or so, you will find no warnings about ‘impenetrable’ or ‘academic’ language, no posturing about the relevance of intersectionality and certainly no expression of surprise at the existence of a funny woman. I make no apologies.
Kamil refers frequently to her show being based around women and women’s issues – one of her first bits of audience interaction is to ensure the hour passes the Bechdel test – but though her feminist activism shines through frequently, she also darts into whimsical tangents with barely a pause for breath. At one point a unicorn gives an exclusive interview, at another three ‘crobots’ – crocheted robots – have a race on stage. There are also song and (burlesque) dance numbers, which showcase Kamil’s vocal talent and originality. The whole make-up of the performance feels incredibly haphazard and happenstance, but an extremely clever bit of work involving cue-cards given to the audience proves there’s method to the madness.
The assorted randomness feels almost like a reclamation of those traits assigned to the much maligned Manic Pixie Dream Girl – only this time without the male gaze and weight of kyriarchal expectation and with an independent purpose instead. The most fantastic thing about this is that it doesn’t interfere with the comedy. Kamil can quote bell hooks and crack a great joke in the same moment. Though occasionally the strangeness of the show gets a bit beyond a lot of her audience, her keen sense of their mood lets her reel them back in very easily. She even presents a moment of what certainly felt like real vulnerability on stage when recounting the street harassment she suffered as a 13 year old, not seeking a cheap laugh but a recognition of the need to shout back – or in Kamil’s case, design funky feminist fashion.
Wide Open Beavers covers a lot of ground in an hour and while it could use a little sharpening, it’s very much an entertaining and educational experience. A must see for anyone who believes women are people too – or to put it another way, feminists.