The Ideal Woman
Reviewed – 11th August 2019
“whilst the Cognatus Theatre troupe clearly have good intentions, ‘The Ideal Woman’ brings nothing new to the conversation”
With the ‘time to make herstory’ tagline, and lengthy choruses of ‘I feel guilty (when I don’t smile, when I defend myself etc)’, ‘My mother told me (not to climb, to wear nice clothes, not to ask questions etc), and ‘We are rising, we are burning red’, the intention of ‘The Ideal Woman’ is clear: This century’s women’s movement is on a precipice of (hopefully) great change; moving from a very old restraining structure of what a woman should be, to something resembling equality and liberation.
But as much as I’m obviously a supporter of the ‘time’s up’/’me too’ campaigns, it won’t do to just state one’s belief in the women’s movement a bunch of times and call it content.
The setting consists of a web made of red thread, tied at four corners (presumably because women are caught in a society-spun web of restraint?) Four women approach from each corner of the room in beige underwear holding red candles and singing in a tribal chorus. For the next forty minutes some kind of narrative unfolds: starting with a tribute to motherhood, followed by a christening of some kind, and then a playground scene. There are moments of lucidity, but it’s mostly made up of abstract vignettes: Vinna Law performs a short aerial hoop routine, for example, whilst begging someone unseen for forgiveness; Morgana Baldissera approaches, kisses her on the forehead and wishes Law dead.
It’s simultaneously too abstract and lacking depth. The opening sequence was so stereotypically ‘performance art’, I assumed it was a parody, but it couldn’t have been more earnest. In fact this is its saving grace. It’s clear the whole cast has complete faith in their performance and the message they’re conveying – they are not cynical in any way. But, I’m afraid, stating that women have had a rough time of it, but that they’re not going to take it anymore, is old hat. At one point they straight up quote what I recall was a popular sign at the 2017 Women’s March, “We are the heirs of the witches they tried to burn.” This appears to have no reference to the show’s content, except that it’s an ‘empowering message’.
Unfortunately, whilst the Cognatus Theatre troupe clearly have good intentions, ‘The Ideal Woman’ brings nothing new to the conversation. It is only forty minutes, however, so there’s not much lost in dropping by and having a look for yourself.
Reviewed by Miriam Sallon
Photography by Vinna Law
The Ideal Woman
Cockpit Theatre until 14th August as part of Camden Fringe 2019
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: