Women Like You – Phoenix, Exeter

Writer: Lucy Hirst and Katherine Stevens

Director: Lucy Hirst and Katherine Stevens

Reviewer: Georgie Bird

This enjoyable and engaging feminist two piece begins with the minimal staging of a bedsit. The walls are constructed out of bin liners and vines cover everything creating a feeling of abandonment, echoing the environment of a prison or someone that lives a very reclusive lifestyle. Ambient music fills the room and we are introduced to Bridget, who lies in bed. The other character, Charlie, stumbles onto the stage drunk and proceeds to break into Bridget’s house, as she is desperate to use the toilet. This circumstance, while slightly unbelievable, does allow for some funny and relatable dialogue between the two characters who have great chemistry.

The whole play works on the premise of Charlie and Bridget having completely different values in life. This is emphasised through the characters clothing and background: Charlie an exotic dancer in a sexy nun outfit and Bridget an ex-nun in a tracksuit. This closed setting forces both characters to be stripped bare and have their views on sexuality and what it means to be a woman, challenged. This formula is fairly successful, although at times it does feel like a shouting match between the two women. This results in audience concentration waning at certain times of the play. 

One element of Women Like You that falls flat is the strange intervals where Bridget and Charlotte appear to go into a dream-like state and erupt into angry outbursts, either to each other or in their own private monologue. These are signified by a change in lighting and involve a lot of clicking of fingers and jumping around. These sections are quite grating and unsettling, they are hard to understand and do not add much to the overall performance. However, one of these segments is particularly moving. Bridget draws on Charlie with a red lipstick, outlining all the flaws on her body with a rage from Bridget that perfectly portrays the hatred women are encouraged to have for their own bodies. Bridget comes across as unstable, jealous and angry, and it is hard to have much sympathy for her after this point.

It briefly mentioned at the start that Charlie is a PhD student, but the play focuses mainly on her promiscuous nature and clothes. This reflects the fact that a woman’s ability to look sexy is still often seen as more of an importance that her mental ability.

The themes in the play could not be more relevant to the current climate, such as the #metoo movement. Women Like You raises important issues, such as the continual shaming of some women for taking their sexual liberation too far. The production succinctly makes the point that this is often done by other women and that women need to take responsibility for some of their own problems: Bridget’s judgement of Charlie’s lifestyle illustrates this nicely.

A particularly memorable quote is when Bridget tells Charlie “You are my worst nightmare of a wingman! You’re beautiful!”. This displays how Charlie being in her house half naked forces Bridget to confront her own insecurities about her appearance, and how damaging female competition can be. It is unclear whether Bridget’s insecurities are supposed to make the audience feel sorry for Bridget or see her as her the villain. Charlie is a lot more likeable, and relatable, especially to a younger audience. Whilst she does hold her own judgements towards Bridget, she is a lot more open-minded and encourages Bridget to embrace her own sexuality.

Women Like You is an intriguing look into female psychology, one that many women will be able to relate and identify with. Whilst many men may find this an insightful view into what it means to be a woman, some men may struggle to find meaning in the feminist dialogue.

The ending is poignant: a message to all women that we must forget the societal ingrained need to compare ourselves to other women, forget the idea of ‘better’ and realise that we are perfectly fine the way we are, before it is too late.

Runs until 22nd July 2018 | Image: Contributed

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The Southwest team is under the editorship of Holly Spanner. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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