“If good art holds a mirror up to nature, then Sticky Door provides a remarkably clear reflection”
Katie Arnstein is on a roll, coming into 2020 off the back of two successful solo shows: her 2018 Bicycles and Fish, and 2019 follow-up Sexy Lamp. Arnstein’s latest piece, Sticky Door, completes the feminist trilogy. You can catch all three shows at VAULT Festival this week.
The title Sticky Door refers to a quote by Minouche Shafik, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of England. Shafik argued that systemic sexism is not like a glass ceiling, which when shattered leaves the way free and clear for other women to follow. Sexism is more like a sticky door: it helps to have someone pulling from the other side, and once pried open, sticks shut again.
Arnstein’s performance combines storytelling and original songs she accompanies with the ukulele. Like her previous shows, this one draws heavily from personal experience. Arnstein takes us back to 2014: the year she had an epiphany that she’d been a passive participant in all of her relationships, and decided to correct for it by embarking on a year of casual sex, which she would initiate.
In a smartly written, very funny monologue, Arstein shares her stories of sex, sexism, cystitis, and the worst flat in London. In her breathless narration – she packs a lot of words into sixty minutes – the jokes fly fast. Her love of language is evident, and much of the comedy comes from incredibly clever similes. Puns also crop up repeatedly. Considering the heavy subject matter, including discussion of depression and assault, Arnstein’s approach is fresh and entertaining. And while her bubbly lightness is undeniably engaging, she shows notable skill in her ability switch gears, reign in the levity, and allow the serious moments to be serious.
If good art holds a mirror up to nature, then Sticky Door provides a remarkably clear reflection. Many will see pieces of their own experiences in Arnstein’s stories. Although Sexy Lamp may feel like a more directed, cohesive show, Sticky Door cuts deep with its argument that society grooms girls to tolerate harassment and abuse: to direct their anger inwardly, and translate it to guilt and shame, as opposed to outwardly, at the perpetrators and a society that caters to them. With moving conviction, Arnstein calls for women to believe they deserve better, and to find the courage not to accept less.
Arnstein offers up her own encounters with misogyny for dissection with intelligence and insight. Her shows are a gift to the women in the audience in particular, who will undoubtably leave feeling less alone.
With neon lights now flashing at every turn and Christmas markets in full swing, Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre brings us a touch of something different in the festive season. The Little Prince is a heart-warming tale: the eponymous lead leaves his beloved home, asteroid B612, to embark on a journey across space in the name of friendship. On his travels, he meets the lone occupants of various planets who are mostly ill-equipped for anything near friendship, apart from an unlikely fox.
This is a classic tale by French writer, Saint-Exupéry and explores themes of human imagination and friendship. This adaptation (directed by Marie McCarthy) does justice to a relatively complex fable and the script (Sally Pomme Clayton) hovers thoughtfully over different stops across the universe, managing to simplify the plot without losing its charm.
The set (Sophia Pardon and Hazel Low) surpasses all expectations for a small theatre production: earthy rocks and boulders; a broken, up-turned plane downstage left; a puppet plant baobab; a swathe of white lights shimmering above us as the night sky. The detail is astounding, the efforts commendable.
The lighting (Rachel Sampley) is equally creative. A spotlight displays etchings on rocks and there are bright alien greens and reds. A small chasm at the back of the stage hosts scenic projections which transport us through different planets. A lovely moment is when the Prince climbs aboard his trusty bird and we fly across the universe, complete with uplifting sounds (Jon McLeod) and brighter lighting.
Costume is on par, if not more pleasing. What a joy to see the garlanded rose costumes; the geographer even has a map decorating his tie. We must applaud the sheer effort that have gone towards the aesthetics.
The cast is a trio of star performers. Royce Cronin plays Rose and a range of the other planetary occupants. He is entertaining and lends a panto energy to the piece with his large gestures and hearty song, albeit not the most tuneful. The lead, Comfort Fabian, is a charming and perky Prince, brimming with youthful fun and innocence. The star performance was delivered by Vera Chok. Her acting is enchanting as she transforms from the concerned and narrow-minded pilot at the start into a multitude of stunning characters including the fox who is the most engaging character on stage. She involves children in the audience in dance and jokes and brings the room to life.
I cannot praise enough the efforts that went into the intricate set and prop design. This marries perfectly with a story which tells of the limitless powers to the imagination. This is a journey both about the self and the way we treat loved ones and leaves you full of Christmas cheer. While the main themes clearly shine through, clever more nuanced meanings rustle under the surface of the earthy stage, making it a delight for both children and adults alike.