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Goddess in the Gutter Theatre Co, photo © Miranda Gavin

Goddess in the Gutter Theatre Co, photo © Miranda Gavin

A Day in the Life of a Woman by Lisa Harmer-Pope, directed by Heather Alexander

A Day in the Life of a Woman premièred at The Roomz as part of Ladyfest, riart Grrrls’ celebration of imperfection to raise funds for Refuge on International Women’s Day. Miranda Gavin was there to review the performance.

Photo © Miranda Gavin

Photo © Miranda Gavin

The Roomz on Western Road in St Leonards is packed. Extra wooden chairs line the corridor of space running alongside the bar and the main room is heaving. ‘Young woman, 15’, played by Sinead Phelps, shuffles through the audience wrapped in a duvet, wearing an all-in-one giraffe playsuit. She sits on a wooden chair, lifts the screen of her pink laptop and addresses the audience, eyeball to eyeball: “I’m not going to talk about myself in a sexual way, that’s just not me.  I don’t think it’s any of your business …  if I wanted to I could though… I’m not scared to talk just I think you should mind your own business…  don’t look at me like that… You look like you are judging me…”

It’s no mean feat to be able to open a play alone in such an intimate setting (the stage light is direct and unflinching, props are minimal), yet Phelps is confident and engages the crowd from the start. When she giggles, it’s infectious and just the right side of awkward. Written by local writer and performer Lisa Harmer-Pope, who appears as ‘Woman in her 50s’, A day in the life of a Woman, is told through a series of monologues delivered in relay-fashion allowing each character’s stream of consciousness to ebb and flow. The ‘woman’ is not named and could be of any nationality, race or ethnicity, but as the story unfolds she becomes progressively older, spanning the decades from teenager to octogenarian (played by veteran actor Jean Alexander who also happens to be the director’s mother).

Lisa Harmer-Pope, Photo © Miranda Gavin

Lisa Harmer-Pope, Photo © Miranda Gavin

Harmer-Pope’s writing is complemented by Heather Alexander’s artful direction, which proves to be a lesson in the economical use of limited props and space, for example, the back of a wooden chair doubles up to become the bars of a cage or an air vent when ‘Woman in her 40s (played by Roz Balp) recounts her kidnapping ordeal. At such close quarters, Balp’s recollection of the pain of captivity is visible in every nuanced expression and repetition of the word ‘freedom’.

Before delivering her monologue each actress shares a word or prop with her counterpart on stage, then recedes to form a tableaux vivant around the lone performer until the finale, when the eight women unite. Moments of direct audience interaction are carefully placed, such as posing for a ‘Selfie’ or asking the audience to hold the end of a tape measure. The cast from Goddess in the Gutter Theatre Company are a formidable team and were on top form, delivering thoughts and reminiscences with conviction and passion.

Photo © Miranda Gavin

Photo © Miranda Gavin

It is refreshing to find a script written for such a range of ages, and themes of sexual violence, the trafficking of women, and abuse are sensitively handled. There are stylistic hints of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy in Joyce’s Ulysses; however, A day in the life of a Woman gives voice to eight different women within a shared narrative. When ‘Actress in 60s’ (played with aplomb by Michelle Lester) confesses: I want to snog in the back row of the Odeon on a Saturday night, not fight for the free coffee on a Wednesday matinee, the laughter from some of the women in the audience appears to be one of recognition.

By turns, engaging and thought provoking, entertaining and poignant, bitter and sweet, this production of A day in the life of a Woman deserves a longer shelf-life, a bigger audience, and more than a one-night stand.

Photo © Miranda Gavin

Photo © Miranda Gavin

Ladyfest was organised by riart Grrrls as part of a three-day festival fundraiser for Refuge, a national organisation for victims of domestic violence. Realized through the generosity of its artists and the hosting venues – Moose’s Kitchen and The Roomz – and thanks to the determination and graft of festival organiser Xaverine Bates, over £300 was raised. For those interested in getting involved next year, please visit riart Grrrls on facebook.

Follow Miranda Gavin on twitter: @MirandaGavin


Posted 15:29 Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014 In: Performance

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