Writer: Katy Brand
Director: Michael Yale
Reviewer: Christie-Luke Jones
3 Women is writer Katy Brand’s at-times bitingly funny take on feminism and women’s rights, told through the eyes of a grandmother (Anita Dobson), a mother (Debbie Chazen), and a daughter (Maisie Richardson-Sellers).
On the eve of her wedding, 40-something Suzanne (Chazen) finds herself plonked in a plush hotel suite with her back-biting, gin-soaked mother Eleanor (Dobson) and dreadlocked, gender-fluid daughter Laurie (Richardson-Sellers).
Dobson is an acid-tongued comedic hurricane throughout. Her thinly-veiled digs at the ‘average’ achievements of her soon-to-be-married daughter are delivered with such impeccable timing and believable tension that you’d swear that Dobson and Chazen had actually lived through twenty-something years of familial dysfunction in preparation for their roles here. The way their tolerance for each other drains away as their alcohol consumption increases is also perfectly realised – eye rolls and awkward coughs descend into hasty re-fills of prosecco and panicked interjections from the perennially-optimistic Laurie. It’s awkward, face-palm comedy at its painfully-familiar best.
It’s a shame Richardson-Seller’s generation Z archetype Laurie isn’t afforded the same nuanced character development as her co-stars. Her riffs on digital dating, artificial wombs, and deconstructing gender and sex are well-meaning, but ultimately come across as heavy-handed and as a result quickly begin to grate. Thankfully, Dobson’s exasperated reactions to Laurie’s digital age revelations are consistently hilarious, quickly ushering the attention away from what unfortunately amounts to a wasted opportunity from a writing perspective.
3 Women does however very much succeed in poignantly portraying the societal struggles of both Dobson and Chazen’s characters. Salty witticisms are interspersed with powerful displays of frustration, regret, melancholy, and stoicism- Dobson channelling Eleanor’s lament for a bright future quashed under the weight of a patriarchal society and domesticity, Chazen in turn venting her exasperation at never being able to live up to her mother’s, and her generation’s, lofty expectations. It’s at times a genuinely heart-breaking narrative journey, but one which ultimately hints at hope and progression, much to the credit of Brand’s meticulous construction of Eleanor and Suzanne’s pitch-perfect mother-daughter dynamic.
Brand’s creation is by no means a homerun, but most definitely succeeds in reinforcing both Dobson and Chazen as comedic and dramatic forces to be reckoned with. The narrative itself is lean, fast-paced and peppered with pleasingly sweet touches that do more than hint at an autobiographical vein running pumping through Brand’s writing. With a more fleshed-out portrayal of women born post-2000, this might have been something very special indeed. As it is, 3 Women is an unequivocally funny play that for two-thirds of it run-time also succeeds as a moving take on what it means to be a woman; at home, at work, and in the context of an ever-changing global conversation.
Runs until 9 June 2018 | Image: Charlie Round-Turner