ComedyDramaFestivalsReviewSouth East

BRIGHTON FRINGE: White Woman Ket Play – The Actors

Reviewer: Thom Punton

Company: Kitsch Theatre

In this play about a young woman writing a play, the metaness of the approach is very much at the forefront. Through the medium of a confessional tale of her struggle to be an artist, with lots of waxing lyrical about the benefits of ketamine on the way, we delve into the multi-layered torturous process of creativity. Though there are funny, illuminating moments, the ambition of the writing doesn’t quite translate into a satisfying whole.

The character’s love of ketamine provides a foundation of humour. And it is a funny drug: it’s primary role as horse tranquilliser underlines the lengths of stupidity us humans go to to find some sort of escape, and it doesn’t kill anybody so it’s ok to joke about on the whole – though brief, sheepish allusion is made to the damage it does to kidneys. When the time comes to indulge she brings out what looks like about a kilo of the stuff, which is very silly and could have been fertile grounding for all-out farce. What the ketamine stands for most however is the search for identity.

Through drug experiences you find yourself, you carve out your societal niche with like-minded people. As Vera Thomas, 19 years old, the eponymous white woman, wrestles with what her play should be about, the ket is something she fixates on. Navigating the clichés of one-woman shows by white women, this will be, she thinks desperately, what sets her apart. She is in search of real problems, real illnesses, she doesn’t want to just make another Fleabag rip-off.

Flights of fancy into night clubs, a Greggs, intercourse with a partner represented by a mannequin’s torso whilst she expounds gender theory, serve to illustrate the chaos and complexity of a young woman’s experience. It also underlines the symptoms of and also mental illness. This is one aspect in the piece that isn’t so self-consciously spelled out for us, and as a result most successful. In all her oversharing and narcissism an unreliable narrator element emerges when it comes to where her problems actually lie.

The irreverence of the subject matter gives it a grimy transgression that points to messy, authentic coming-of-age, but the metaness doesn’t quite solve the problem the protagonist (and by extension the real life playwright behind it all) is trying to solve. It feels like we are witnessing the fragments of a work of art that hasn’t managed to coalesce. And though this is evidently the point of the piece, an audience needs a bit more meat on the theatrical bone to chew on.

Runs until 10 May 2024

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