The Second Sex
Reviewed – 31st July 2017
” a masterful black comedy”
Dos Mujeres Theatre Company is staging an intervention, a grotesquely relevant social commentary on the cultural creation of ‘fully functioning and obedient women’. The Second Sex is a masterful black comedy, navigating the taboos of the feminine mystique with ease and poignancy. As we enter the theatre, the audience are confronted with six women, sitting uniformly in hospital gowns, staring blankly at each other; these are the inpatients of the feminist rehabilitation centre. Over the following 40 minutes, Dos Mujeres lead us through a cynical and hilarious series of lessons in the ‘proper duties of woman’ including, the performance of oral sex, the plucking of one’s body hair and the necessity of never having an opinion.
With no set, minimal props and simple technical composition, the genius of the concept and the skill of the ensemble are laid bare; fluttering between more naturalist comic scenes of the rehabilitation centre and physicalised sections that expose a darker undertone to the comedy. The short run-time leaves the piece feeling a little more like a proof-of-concept, than a finished show, and the great shame of the piece is the necessity of its brevity.
It’s overtly political undertones limit its run-time, with too long risking becoming evangelical, but too short leaving the audience with whiplash. The intermittent ensemble physical sections are beautifully arranged, but can sometimes feel a little confused; perhaps missing a more clear progression or through-line that links the physicality to the main narrative. The darker tragic undertones that emerge in full-force at the close of the piece could be more evenly scattered throughout the piece, to really emphasise the irony and danger of the comic sections.
Utilising a variety of mechanics and set pieces to highlight the inequities of womanhood, accompanied by a sardonic wit that leaves the audience rolling in the aisles, The Second Sex kills us with comedy before jolting us with the very serious issues that follow the traditional submission of women; in the final section, physical abuse and sexual violence are tackled with a subtlety and honesty that shocks the audience into contemplation. A high-concept and stylised ensemble piece, The Second Sex is incredibly intelligent and enjoyable, following in the footsteps of it’s namesake, Simone De Beauvoir, the piece undermines concepts of gender with a witty cynicism that demands its audience’s reflection.
Reviewed by Tasmine Airey
THE SECOND SEX
is at The Etcetera Theatre until 2nd August