A clever, conversational creation which examines differing experiences and attitudes to feminism, misogyny and the patriarchal structures which limit women in society. The premise of the piece, by Thespian and Proud, is that Jane and Maggie have been sent by their employers on a mandatory ‘Sexual Harassment’ corporate course. Aimed at female participants, the rhetoric is built on how women can avoid putting themselves in a position where sexual harassment can occur. Jane and Maggie balk at this concept, and after being overheard by the facilitator – Caroline – expressing their disdain, the trio embark on an exploration of how to tackle this head on.
A short and almost perfectly formed whistle stop tour of fourth wave feminism
As we delve deeper, each woman has their own experiences which have shaped their attitudes to gender discrimination. Jane would love to have another child, but isn’t willing to risk the consequences to her career. Lily is in an abusive relationship, but is in a state of denial about it. And Caroline, failed by the criminal justice system, has a particularly narrow perspective of sexual assault and rape. Through their entangled experiences, they scrutinise the systems at play and deeply challenge their own behaviours and attitudes – like the way Caroline undermines Will, her male assistant. After a few glasses of wine, a way forward is reached and this includes Will contributing to the development of a new and improved course.
A major success of the #metoo movement is most certainly the bringing of male voices to the table. Men opening dialogue with other men and challenging patriarchal attitudes, with an awareness that male voices can reach places female voices may not always be able to. The character of Will embodies this change. However this movement has been and will always be led by female voices as the experts of our own lived experiences. In this regard, as a feminist I did resent that it was the male voice which finally persuaded Caroline that the course in its current state wasn’t fit for purpose. Though the collaboration between Will and Caroline in the re-write is a nod to how we can achieve more together going forward.
Despite the topic matter undoubtedly being thought provoking, there is a forced informality about the acting. In an attempt to come across as the type of conversation that would organically evolve, the result is a scripted version of the types of conversations that happen naturally in most female dominated spaces which doesn’t feel particularly profound. Despite having a major interest in the subjects being discussed, theatrical license was pushed to its limits and I was left pondering how unlikely it is that this would actually happen – that a corporate diversity course would be abandoned mid-way, by a trainer who had inexplicably cracked open a bottle of wine. This distracted slightly from the overarching message of the performance.
There is serious potential, nevertheless, in the concept behind this piece. A minor reworking of the script could achieve a credible and discerning reflection which the audience could relate more to. It’s a short and almost perfectly formed whistle stop tour of fourth wave feminism, which is definitely worth seeing.