The B*easts

Even those of us who strive to find nothing inherently embarrassing about mammary glands feel a bit awkward at the box office, and this is part of The B*easts message. “I’d like ticket to see… the Beasts? The Breasts? Er, the one with the asterisk.” After all, the fact that it is censored makes us believe that there’s something shameful. It is this uncomfortable doubleness with our relationship to breasts – both fascination and taboo, source of pride and shame, the epitome of womanhood yet somehow belonging to men – that The B*easts is concerned with.

Provocative and relevant writing delivered by a consummate actress, this arresting play remains important long after you leave the world of the theatre.

“It was a bit like Officer Krupke”.

So explains Tessa, a psychotherapist. She is describing the case of Karen, a mother she has been working with, who facilitated cosmetic surgery for Lila, her eight-year old daughter. This event unleashes a series of ethical dilemmas and the blame is passed around. Dolan’s one-woman monologue describes the chain of reactions and the broader problems surrounding them. These are murky, and examined in intricate detail from all angles - the mother, the father, the teachers, the friends, the media, the surgeons, the lawyers. The case – though hypothetical – is no more than a step away from those events already happening regularly in the world we know, where retailers sell padded bras for 7-year olds, where newspapers continuously sexualise underage girls, where the legality of breastfeeding is debated daily.

The result is a genuinely riveting hour – an intelligent essay told so conversationally that one can forget this is an actress. The first time a loud ringtone goes off, the entire audience holds its breath, suddenly reminded that this is a theatre and furious at the guilty receiver (it is with huge relief that we see Dolan pick up her own phone). Though unsurprising from this actress, it is a great credit to Dolan’s skill that whenever lines are fumbled or stuttered, we know that this is the character, not the performer, who is distracted from their speech. However, the inconveniences of a Fringe venue were particularly frustrating: being able to hear the loud music from a neighbouring show, or the sounds of traffic from the street too often distracted from the tense atmosphere. The show is understated, and that understatement contributes to the potency of the message. Yet in this armchair monologue, one cannot help feeling the desire for something more. Perhaps it is because the issues themselves are so pervasive and overwhelming that the listener leaves with a feeling of lack. Yet you leave wishing there had been some kind of call to arms, some kind of way to address the issues raised, but it remains grey. Instead we are left to our thoughts, and the fading lyrics of Belle and Sebastian’s She’s Losing It.

Dolan shows herself to be equally impressive as a writer as a performer. Provocative and relevant writing delivered by a consummate actress, this arresting play remains important long after you leave the world of the theatre.

Reviews by Lily Lindon

Assembly George Square Theatre

David O'Doherty: Big Time

★★★★
Roundabout @ Summerhall

Scorch

★★★★
Underbelly, George Square

Fleabag

★★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

Kiri Pritchard-McLean: Appropriate Adult

★★★★
Underbelly Med Quad

Joan

★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Setting the modern obsession with putting your own child first against our responsibility as a society towards children as a whole, this dark tale, written by and starring BAFTA award-winning actress Monica Dolan (W1A, Appropriate Adult, The Witness For The Prosecution), explores how far one mum will go to give her child what she wants. A searing exploration of the pornification of our culture and the sexualisation of our children. Directed by John Hoggarth. 'Dolan is about the best actor on TV at the moment' (Guardian). 'A fantastic actress' (Telegraph). 'Superb performance' (Independent).

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