Writer: Ellie Kendrick
Director: Helen Goalen/ Abbi Greenland
Reviewer: Grace Patrick
In the hollowed out, cavernous Jerwood Upstairs, which is currently flecked with paint and (hopefully intentionally) a little unfinished looking, Ellie Kendrick’s Holes is a fiery, explosive take on the theme of female rage.
Expectations inevitably run high at theatres like the Royal Court, but as the piece grew it asked another less intentional question: Can meaning be lost through just a little too much metaphor? The topics that Kendrick is looking to explore are clear. This is a piece of theatre designed to subvert the accepted narrative of women being criticised for everything down to the sheer act of existing and to rip out and rebuild the space that women are expected to fill.
The issue doesn’t lie in any of this, but instead in its execution. In order to expand upon the female experience, Kendrick’s focus appears to jump between the immediate, the mythological and the celestial, with black holes forming a recurring theme. Over time, it begins to take on a sense that it’s easier to discuss female experience by discussing anything but women in the here and now, as though the trials and tribulations of existing as a woman must be distanced and mythologised before they can be talked about.
Running at just over an hour, Hole never feels like it’s running too long, but does at times feel like it’s doing too much. It introduces a myriad of motifs, and the pressure of returning to all of these starts to seem like a burden. This is a shame because there are some truly beautiful moments in which the play’s messages are perfectly encased, but these are surrounded by swathes of material which is very good, but a little beside the point. Thanks to this, it seems to fall a little into its own trap.
The script speaks of the fact that women have, through history, been forced to speak as a group rather than individuals, but then proceeds to repeatedly refer to a “we” which clearly envelopes all of womankind. Perhaps inevitably, this leads to a rather general tone, failing to hone in on individual experience or on wider but universal themes. Instead, the vaguely personal is made to represent the general and just doesn’t fit.
All in all, this is a deeply interesting and pertinent piece, but one that could perhaps benefit from a slightly narrower focus or a more direct take on its subject matter.
Runs until 12 January 2019 | Image: The Other Richard