Writer: Katie Arnstein
Director: Ellen Havard
Forget the glass ceiling; it’s an inappropriate metaphor. When listening to Desert Island Discs performer Katie Arnstein heard a better metaphor: the sticky door. In a 60-minute show full of drama and laughs, Arnstein charts her own relationship to the sticky door, and it’s one of the best plays at this year’s VAULT Festival.
On the radio, Dame Minouche Shafik said that the glass ceiling suggests that once broken women will rise up through the space. This is misleading and instead Shafik said that female empowerment is more like a sticky door, when you need someone on the other side to help get you through.
Arnstein is a confident but generous performer, easily drawing us in from the start. Titles, jokes and trigger warnings are displayed on consecutive cards that she discards on the floor like Andrew Lincoln in Love Actually. When the story begins – and this is storytelling at its best, relying on no gimmicks – we are hooked on every word.
She recounts a year in her life when she decided to sleep with a different man each month without becoming emotionally attached. Her studying-mathematics-at-Oxford boyfriend dumped her just before Christmas, and she doesn’t want to get hurt again.
Either stood on the small stage, or sat in an armchair Arnstein goes through each month but elation soon turns to despair. Out of nothing, Arnstein is able to conjure up images of her flat above a chicken shop in Brixton, or her agent’s office in Sydenham. We see quite clearly her flatmate, or her best friend who keeps calling throughout the show. Not a word or gesture is wasted here, but never is Arnstein’s performance clinical or over-rehearsed.
Sticky Door is the third in a trilogy but it stands alone too and there is no need to have seen the other two, Bicycles and Fishes, and Sexy Lamp. It’s rare to see standing ovations at VAULT, but this got one because plays as good as this are rare too.
Runs until 16 February 2020