Writer: Alex Wood
Reviewer: Clare Howdon
Sleepless Theatre’s new offering Nine Foot Nine centres around couple Cara and Nate, who are about to have a baby. However, their imminent arrival is quite literally overshadowed when women begin to grow to unprecedented heights (hence the play’s title). As this freak occurrence becomes more and more prevalent, these women are referred to as sprouters and as time goes on, this ‘sprouting’ becomes an unavoidable fact of life for young women everywhere. Politically minded Cara becomes increasingly frustrated by the treatment of sprouters, decides to leave Nate and baby Sophie to join the sprouter revolution, sparking a familial divide that will last for years to come. Suddenly finding themselves physically stronger than ever before, the sprouter women start making social changes that quickly catch on over the next sixteen years and become the new normal.
Sleepless Theatre Company prides itself on their creation of ‘bold, concept-driven work’ and the concept they are striving for here is what would happen if the power balance of our world suddenly and inexplicably changed? Whether this concept always works within the confines of this theatrical production however is a little less clear and the pace is sometimes a little too slow and laboured to maintain engagement for the full 60 minutes.
What the production does get right is some lovely moments of dialogue by Alex Wood. Wood’s script strikes an effective balance between a personal narrative whilst addressing the wider societal issues of power. The writing is generally supported by a strong cast who deliver nuanced and convincing performances. However, these moments of quality aren’t really sustained throughout and there are too many times where the writing lapses into repetition which muddles the overall style and message of the piece. Although the use of surtitles fits the Brechtian style and compliments the play’s theme of inclusivity, they do unfortunately highlight some of the cast member’s paraphrasing, which is a little distracting.
With some tweaking, Nine Foot Nine has the potential to be an engaging, thought provoking and topical piece of dystopian theatre.
Runs until 25 August 2018 | Image: Contributed