Writer: Julie McNamara
Director: Paulette Randall
Reviewer: Paul Couch
One way or another, there’s a story to be told about Dorothy Lawrence, a 19-year-old female reporter at the beginning of the 20th Century. She claimed that, in the face of cultural resistance, she rode on a bicycle to the front lines of the Somme in 1915 and posed as a male trench-digger while secretly reporting on the conditions there.
Whether that’s the truth of Lawrence’s tale or a dark fantasy of a fragile mind (there are few public records of her exploits, but thereare of her being committed to an asylum in 1925), we may never know but either version would have explored a strong theme of oppression if handled with much more care.
There’s very little fleshing out of Lawrence’s perilous journey; she’s simply plonked in an ill-fitting khaki uniform and appears at the front lines. We learn nothing about Lawrence the person, her previous life, nor her fight to be recognised as a functioning journalist in a male-dominated environment.
Julie McNamara’s script is clunky and not enhanced by ropey performances, including at one point a parody of Stephen Fry’s already sent-up General Melchett from Blackadder Goes Forth. Even late in the show’s tour, the cast seems uncomfortable with where they’re meant to be and when they’re meant to be there. Director Paulette Randall would have been better advised to reconsider taking this production out on the road. It seems under-rehearsed and paceless, almost painful to watch.
Vital Xposure bills itself as a disability-led company. One must ask then why, if you’re going to the trouble of providing signers (albeit virtual) and surtitles, designer Libby Watson obscures them behind a large – and completely unnecessary – piece of set to a significant chunk of her audience.
Vital Xposure’s The Disappearance of Dorothy Lawrence not only fails to explore the storybut is disrespectful in its flippancy to the men and women who served – and suffered – in France.
One way or another, there is a story to be told about Dorothy Lawrence. Sadly, this is not the way to do it.
Reviewed on 2 October 2015 | Image: Contributed