Writer: Rachel Mariner
Sitting somewhere between film, poetry and political treatise, Recovering Misogynist is the latest play from Rachel Mariner.
Narrated by Mariner, with an accompanying film directed by Steffen Wild, Recovering Misogynist uses experience from Mariner’s own life to explore the idea that it is not enough to be a non-misogynist. We must, argues Mariner, be anti-misogynist – even if that means turning on ourselves.
Mariner’s is a life of power, privilege and everything that that implies. Graduating from Oxford, Mariner returns to America to pursue a stellar career in New York. As a litigator, Mariner excels at extracting the truth from her client. Recovering Misogynist, in recanting details of Mariner’s former career, runs the risk of alienating her audience. Rachel attends an after-party at the Cannes Film Festival. Seducing a waiter, and sipping vintage Bollinger among the A-list, the plushness of Mariner’s world is – of course – not what it seems.
Long hours – all the hours – are what’s required of Mariner. Even then, the chances of her making partner at her law firm are dashed in a meeting where her competence is called into question. It is the flimsiest of pretexts – Mariner’s excellence has already been rewarded, outside her firm, many times over. And yet, as she leaves the meeting, she begins to doubt herself. Has she done all she could to secure a partnership? Should her work really be called into question?
Recovering Misogynist uses associative memories to pull the narrative forward and back over time. Mariner moves from her present life in Cambridge, to her younger days at Oxford, and back into more detail of her high-flying years in New York. The personal meets the political head-on, as Mariner’s play references her experiences of Occupy and the #MeToo movement. Joining the Occupy protestors in London, Mariner finds herself kettled by the police. She, as a white middle-class woman, is allowed to leave but only before giving up her protest sign. It reads ‘Justice is Possible’ – Mariner laughs. It feels a long time ago.
As news of film producer Harvey Weinstein’s arrest breaks in 2017, Mariner – along with millions of other women – watches the story unfold on Twitter. The hashtag #MeToo trends globally. The narrative, across race, class and education, is depressingly similar. Mariner, at this point still in the process of moving towards ‘recovery’, ponders on Weinstein’s fate. She questions the women telling their stories – their “vaguely strident” voices.
Mariner is startlingly honest about her journey into feminism. On graduating law school, Mariner’s class are told that they are “arrogant, contentious and entitled” – these are traditionally male qualities, attributable to power, and Mariner is urged to use these qualities to assist those with no access to power.
As Mariner enters the professional world, she openly rejects what she sees as a ‘victim narrative’. It is only as she begins to relate personal anecdotes, encounters, experiences of physical and sexual assault– half-buried, dreamlike – that we begin to join the dots. Women are more at risk of harm the closer their proximity to power. She imagines a bolder version of herself raising hell at an alumni dinner. Recovering Misogynist plays not only with voices, but with possibilities. The play moves from a stream of consciousness technique, to full-on fantasy where Mariner uses imagined, impossible conversations to try and resolve her feelings. It is not a resolution that runs in a straight line.
Densely-textured and full of energy, Mariner’s writing commands your attention from the start. In performing the text herself, Mariner never fails to miss an intonation, a nuance or suggestion. Mariner’s relationship with feminism, and by definition herself, is complicated and messy. Recovering Misogynist is jarring and confrontational, exploring the grey areas of the feminist movement. That feminism is a state naturally embraced by intelligent women is not a concept agreed upon by Mariner. Recovery is not only to reject an idea – it must be met with resistance, all the more difficult when the resistance comes from within. By engaging with this uncomfortable truth, Mariner urges us to re-assess our place in a man’s world.
Available here until 26 August 2020