DramaLondonPoetryReview

Bare – Courtyard Theatre, London

Writers: Kat Ronson, Steffanie Freedoff, Madeleine Dunne
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Our sense of self is constantly under attack. The pressure to look a certain way, fit in with the crowd and bend to external expectations is something a lot of women, and increasing numbers of men, struggle with. In a society seemingly obsessed with surface engagement, expressing anything deeper can be hugely exposing. The Courtyard Theatre’s new show Bare presents three one-act performances exploring these notions of honesty, self-realisation and community in three very different stories.

First, Kat Ronson presents Ibz, the story of an intense holiday romance experienced by a young woman on the party island of Ibiza. This one-woman monologue cleverly contrasts the mundane existence of the heroine still living with her parents in England with the desire to escape abroad and experience all the adventure and freedom Ibiza can offer. Two days into the trip, high on drink and drugs she meets a man and falls in love enjoying a blissful public romance until very quickly the tone changes and the girl is subject to a violent assault.

Ronson’s piece is carefully constructed and beautifully performed, bringing out all the fun and enthusiasm or the budding relationship mixing reminiscence with a re-creation of particular events. She conveys the ensuing darkness, fear and disbelief in a moving and engaging way, which admirably doesn’t shy away from the brutality and indignity of the acts forced on her. Ibz is the most powerful piece of the evening and leaves the audience with a clear sense of how easily young women are taken advantage of and the horrible consequences for the individuals involved.

Next, is Steffanie Freedoff’s performance poem, In the Beginning, Was the Word,which imagines the speaker giving a TEDtalk in Chicago, explaining to the imagined attendees how she was inspired by a poetry slam to unleash her love of language and communication. This is a short section about “finding the voice inside of you” and trusting gut instincts, which develops into a piece about rape and the need to continue the discussion until there is no longer anything to fear. Clearly impassioned Freedoff’s brief interlude is engaging and offers a different kind of performance between the two dramatic pieces.

Finally Mind the Gap by Madeleine Dunne is a two scene play about developing self-knowledge and self-acceptance, using it as a motivation to overcome barriers. It is the story of Lucy who we first meet as a 6-year-old girl unable to cross the yellow line in the tube station. Dunne effortlessly captures the speech patterns and physical movement, with moments of coyness, enthusiasm and unintentional comedy that are familiar in young children.

We meet Lucy again around 10-15 years later when the fear of the Underground has taken hold and she’s in ‘desensitising therapy’ to overcome her issues. Dunne shows how Lucy’s minors worries escalate rapidly into disaster scenarios, but the message of this section is less clear until she begins to chant and yell about accepting her limitations and continuing to try despite setbacks, which while valuable slightly lacks the political or emotional impact of the previous stories.

Bare ends with all three women on stage for a final song united by the exposure of their individual performances and the moments of vulnerability, fear and determination their characters have displayed. As a 70 minute unit, the three pieces sit well together offering varied work within the shared theme of baring all and, while Freedoff and Dunne’s pieces may not provoke much post-theatre debate on the way home, Ronson’s Ibz will certainly trouble audience for hours if not days to come.

Runs until 16 July 2016 | Image: Contributed

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