As the years have gone on, it has become more and more apparent that there is an uneven gender divide in theatre. Fewer female writers get their shows funded and put on, and subsequently the number of female actors, directors and crew suffer as well. The industry is beginning to tackle this (The National Theatre has just committed to gender equality by the year 2021) so when I originally read up on Broken Leg’s Three Generations of Women written by Alice Trueman and Anna Jefferson alongside an all-female cast and crew, I was really excited.
The show sought out women to tell their stories and created what the Independent on Sunday called ‘a new digital archive chronicling the lives of British women.’ The show had the potential to be something revolutionary and very special. Which is why I was disappointed when this didn’t necessarily translate.
The four-hander lacked the necessary passion and charm that a show needs to engage an audience. Relationships weren’t formed quickly enough and weren’t complex enough to warrant a huge amount investment in the play, which immediately created an increasing problem as it was hard to care what happened to most of the characters. That being said, this made me extremely appreciative for the presence of Nicola Harrison (Frankie). Of all the characters, I was able to invest the most in her and it meant therefore I invested more in any relationship she was a part of. Near the end of the play when she and her mother Gilly (Moir Lesley) are let down, it is the most emotionally connected I felt with the piece. Although I struggled to feel empathy for Gilly, I had a huge amount for Frankie and that in essence is what saved the piece. Harrison has a unique talent, and I imagine a very bright career ahead of her.
The show got better as it went on and the grandmother and grandaughter relationship which kicks off Act Two (Gilly Daniels as Elsie and Harrison as Frankie respectively), and Daniels is the closest to being able to keep up with Harrison. Luckily for the writers, the most riveting part of the story is left in the hands of these two actors and occurs as the play begins to come to a close. So although the evening lacked an exciting dynamic on the whole, it did give me something to talk about as I left the theatre.
Perhaps I set my expectations too high, but when you market the show in tandem with such an exciting concept, I think you have to be sure to follow through. With 1,800 stories at their disposal, the chosen ones felt a little cliché and safe, and thus made for a slightly one-toned show, changed only by a few shining moments of honesty.
Review by Sophie Taylor-Lily
Three Generations of Women is a story of the horrors of moving back in with your mum in your 30s, of finally appreciating the best piece of advice your grandmother ever gave you and of extraordinary family secrets held across the generations. The full production will tour for the first time in Spring 2016.