Producing Company: Buglight Theatre
Writer & Performer: Keeley Lane
Dramaturg & Director: Samantha Robinson
Sound Designer: Dave Searle
Lighting & Technician: Chris Hanlon
Reviewer: Rich Jevons
Right from her plucky stage entrance to the demanding denouement, Buglight Theatre co-founder Keeley Lane dominates the stage in this compulsive one-woman show. It was developed from her MA in Acting studies when it was called, Exploring the paradox of choice through a feminist autobiographical performance. The resulting piece is semi-autobiographical, with stories based on the ‘choices’ that Keeley, her mother, and grandmother had in their lives.
The show begins with Keeley sorting through her boxes of memorabilia, prior to moving house. This allows her to journey back through her family history in a series of fast-paced vignettes that are both highly emotional and intensely physical, too.
The scenes range from the comical – we see Keeley in a long red wig playing out as her favourite Disney character – to her much darker moments, including an excruciating depiction of domestic violence and descriptions of her early sordid sexual experiences. Throughout, the emphasis was on defining feminism as a result of the patriarchal and misogynistic world we live in.
As a waitress, she has to endure cheesy sexist one-liners and the customary obscene slap on the behind. In the play she acts out her angry response; in reality, she just had to put up with being seen as an object. Similarly, her new job in London goes awry when her boss takes her home in a taxi demanding sexual favours that she refuses, to her peril. Earlier, we discover the families background, with an alcoholic mother threatening suicide if the kids don’t go to the shop for booze. But while we are not looking back with rose-tinted spectacles, there’s not really much of an element of regret either, more an acceptance of things as they were, then turning into feminist fury. This is most obvious in her fellow actors, who claim sexism is a thing of the past and so being a feminist is not an option – how wrong they are!
Keeley’s performance is simply impeccable, taking us with her every step of the way. The show also benefits from some fantastic lighting changes that give it even more gravitas, and the short bursts of sound succeed in making a poignant background to the narrative, and occasional light relief.
Also, as Keeley’s first professional writing for theatre, the production is mature and well-scripted. The direction by Samantha Robinson is clear and incisive, while the simple set is used to great advantage. A powerful polemic over the male gaze and sexism in our society which – in case you hadn’t noticed – is still prevalent and all-pervasive. This may not have been agitprop, but it certainly gets its message across with a powerful punch.
Touring nationwide | Image: Anthony Robling