King’s Head Theatre
Reviewed – 11th July 2017
“… questions where social ideas of ‘normal’ stem from”
So London’s balmy start to summer decided to burst into a massive downpour this evening (actually for most of the afternoon beforehand too), therefore I found myself bereft of canoe and risking driving to the venue through foot deep puddles and rivulets of water!
The Kings Head Theatre Pub in Islington is on the A1 so fairly accessible and local parking not bad after 6.30. The pub itself is a traditional affair, massive windows and polished wood. It isn’t a huge room but on a ‘quiet’ Tuesday it was buzzing and capably tended by two cheerful barmen. Clientele was mixed. Every age of punter and a lot of accents chattering happily. I tried to guess who around me was waiting for admittance to the theatre in the back of the pub …
The pub has a long theatrical history framed on it’s walls and whilst the theatre is small it runs a slick turnaround. A registered charity, the theatre relies solely on donations and ticket sales to survive – they get no share of bar takings and pay rent to the brewery to be on site. Yet they are proud of their Equity House Agreement that means everyone involved with each production is paid the going rate.
I was here to see the second production of the evening ‘Bridle’, written and performed by Stephanie Martin. Part of ‘Festival 47’, the King’s Head’s new writing showcase.
For the uninitiated the auditorium is a little cramped, and tonight was pretty well attended. Despite the wet weather, the evening was not any cooler so the ceiling fans are a welcome breeze in an intimate venue. We entered to see a bare stage, a single microphone, a woman in a horse mask reading a porn magazine.
I’d seen the blurb and thought I was in for an hour or so of thought provoking drama regarding women’s sexuality in contemporary Britain. Instead I was treated to a mix of stand up comedy and monologue which slowly unravelled into a very 21st century tale from the Clamour Theatre Company, with all the drama hitting home via what we learned about our complex and flawed sole character.
The play begins as ‘Evie’ is detained by people unknown for an act she wasn’t aware of was a crime; the charges remaining ambiguous. Her reminiscences and explanations, her disclosures about her private life, loves and relationships, are slowly laid bare and the audience begins to build a picture of her. Modern grey areas such as sexting and stalking are explored and encroaching political censorship as well as social parameters are acknowledged.
Evie is likeable, honest and funny in declaring her past, she reigns nothing in, making you wonder if she’s a victim or a manipulator. While veering between laughing at her and with her, the play poses some familiar issues regarding ‘attention seeking behaviour’, attitudes to women who are open about life/love/sex, the female virgin/whore dichotomy, and feminine vs. feminist stereotypes. Through Evie’s revelations the audience questions where social ideas of ‘normal’ stem from – it lays bare the judgements we are all constantly either making, or are open to, without declaring what the verdict ought to be.
Stephanie Martin was very good as Evie, relaxed in the role and able to adapt the script around a small amount of audience participation/interaction. She held everyone’s attention and kept the narrative flowing.
If the applause at the end is a gauge, no one was disappointed with the performance. There is no resolution, vindication or damnation of who Evie is, she is in many ways all of us rolled into one – and as a woman watching the show I realise much of what it highlights is, or has been, real life to far too many friends, relatives and colleagues. That said, with both feet firmly on the entertainment stage the loudest laughs came from the males in the audience, even if one or two looked a little uncomfortable at first, so don’t dismiss this play as solely for a female audience.
In fact go see for yourself what an UN-Bridled woman has to say.
Reviewed by Joanna Hinson
is at King’s Head Theatre on 12th & 16th July
as part of