Writer: Cassiah Joski-Jethi
Director: James Haddrell
Reviewer: James Napleton
This dystopia explores the life of six women who have become imprisoned for crimes against a militantly patriarchal society.
The play takes place in the cell of five women who have been inmates together for several months. Under the guidance of one inmate, they have begun training by putting their bodies through punishing routines of exercising and fighting, with the ultimate aim to rebel against their male oppressors. However, this well-established power dynamic is disrupted when a new inmate is introduced to the cell, and their way of life comes into question.
Under My Thumb is a really powerful piece of theatre. The core idea is a poignant allegory, where the imprisonment of these women represents how women can become disempowered and trapped by social codes in everyday society. In this dystopian universe, women have lost their legal rights and can be imprisoned for calling out against sexual abuse or workplace discrimination. The script is emotive and provocative, as the women describe to each other the different ways in which they have been unfairly imprisoned.
At times this play can be really arresting as the social order with the prison cell comes to a head, and the characters are pushed to the edge. However, the play lacks a consistency between these highly charged moments, a continual sense of atmosphere and tension often feels lacking. This overall leads to a lack of intensity that the script and overall themes of the play seem to demand. The individual performances, however, are strong and at times can be utterly harrowing. The performance is structured excellently, and the scenes are paced well. Interludes of TV projections show interviews with individual characters, and this offers a visual variety and an ominous force in the play. Overall, Under My Thumb is a challenging and provocative piece of serious drama.
Reviewed on 21 May 2017
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