Writers: Alice Downing and Kitty Hughes
Director: Duncan Hallis
Reviewer: Luke Seidel-Haas
Hired by a temping agency, Twenty-somethings Billie (Alice Downing) and Dani (Kitty Hughes) are tasked with running a bakery. There’s just one problem – they don’t know the first thing about baking. Left alone with boxes full of ingredients and a table covered in utensils, the duo initially debates what type of bakery they should run. Is it a hipster bakery which serves avocado and kale loaves, or a helium bakery, where everything floats away? This initial sequence is frenetic and humorous and sets the tone for the rest of the piece.
Before long, the bakers’ conversations turn to more important things. They discuss sex and the scientific way that female bodies are explained during biology and sex education. They then compare this to the way the human body actually is. Throughout the show a flipchart is used, here utilised to draw an accurate depiction of their vaginas over the “standard” depiction shown in school. Both characters admit that theirs do not look much like it, and both confess to having “a very hairy asshole”. It is here that the play moves into its real subject matter: the expectations placed upon women and their bodies (your period will happen exactly the same way every month and will be virtually painless) versus the reality (the stabbing pains, the bloating etc.).
As the play progresses, Downing and Hughes move on to other subjects such as dating, childbirth, travelling, eating disorders and motherhood. Some of these cleverly riffs off baking related puns or expressions such as having a “bun in the oven” or “putting all your eggs in one basket”. Others appear to have been created from wild tangents, which spiral off into a hilarious monologue or story before crashing back down to the reality of the bakery. This typifies Big Loop’s piece – wild, slightly chaotic but full of brilliant ideas crashing around the space.
Director Duncan Hallis also manages to get the shifts in tone spot on – the play changes from a lighthearted scene about baking, to a gut-wrenching story about sexual assault instantaneously, with the audience lurching from laughter to sadness. Downings performance of this monologue while simultaneously “on point” in ballet shoes is sincere, honest and utterly devastating to watch.
Ultimately, Flours uses the setting of two hapless novice bakers to speak more widely about expectation and pressure. Specifically, the expectations and pressures that are placed upon women to look a certain way, to achieve certain things, by a certain time or be considered failures. Whether this is because they were taught about it in school, have been conditioned to act a certain way around men, or because adverts and the media have shown them unrealistic representations of womanhood. The play excellently harnesses the power of comedy to explore the insecurities that young women are under, and the impact this can have.
Flours is a humorous and heartfelt piece which manages to simultaneously feel highly personal and universal in its scope.
Runs until 21st July 2018 (BSL performance 20th July) | Image: Tess Seymour Photography