Written & Directed by Seón Simpson and Gina Donnelly
What do you remember of sex education and puberty? Or at least, what can you remember that you haven’t blotted out? For many we were given the archaic and established believes that our parents and grandparents were told; of how to act, what to shave and what not to do, with much of the suggestions being a way to ‘control’ our bodies – that’s right, we’re talking abstinence.
Unapologetic, unfiltered, and uncompromising, Two Fingers Up grasps the audience by the unmentionables and drags them down to the confusing level of adolescence. And shifting from young girls of ten into teenage years, Sarah Reid, Orla Graham and Shannon Wilkinson transmogrify themselves through the experiences and confusions. As the dynamics of the production move forward, the emotional integrity shifts from comedic, to intimacy, to revolutionary and a call of action and acceptance. Seón Simpson and Gina Donnelly’s writing has a precision of understanding in an eloquent (and not so eloquent) manner, but the direction in places needs a tighter fisted approach – particularly in the shows more aggressive sequences.
Disconnecting any personal bias from the agreement with what the writing covers, Two Fingers Up contains itself as a well-developed and crafted piece of theatre. Not only this, but the production also works well as a piece of film – streaming over demand for Summerhall. Gavin Pedan’s filmmaking retains the authenticity of the stage while allowing a few snippet changes in camera angles to draw audiences closer to the facial expression of the cast. And outside of the occasional lighting change, Oisín Jayat’s sound design brings additional erratic momentum to the production.
The energetic trio bound around the stage, utilising the space to its fullest in their exploration of humour and jest. As expected, comedy is the centrefold holding together the meticulous commentary and shoe-string narrative. Playing multiple roles, crossing age milestones, and experiencing the wonders of masturbation, love and their first dick pics, the performances form accessibility to the audience with exuberant expression, timing, and accessibility.
But this doesn’t devalue the fear and anxieties present in young women in Northern Ireland. The trio effortlessly conveys the impending dread to a nation with systemic issues of religious impressions onto sex education and freedoms. They challenge the stigma of sex and women in Northern Ireland head-on and do so while infusing a sterling understanding and belief in Seón Simpson and Gina Donnelly’s writing. They openly grasp the idiotic notion of denied pleasure, or the idea of pain and ‘first-time’ sex in women, broaching an openness with the audience to discover themselves.
So, do us a favour, will you? Stick two fingers up. Right up to the tired notions of restricting education and enjoyment to young women about their bodies and choices. Stick two fingers up to the men who take advantage of the inexperienced or nervous. And Stick two fingers right up for generations of politicians and religious figures who dictated the rights of a woman’s body.
Two Fingers Up runs until 29 August 2021 on Demand with Summerhall | Image: Contributed