As part of Islington’s Pleasance Theatre’s season entitled A Festival of Sex, Love and Death, I found myself on Tuesday watching two plays; Hatch It Theatre’s Whalebone and David Levesley’s play Silent Meat.
Whalebone explores the themes of feminism, body perceptions, the media and self-confidence through puppeteering and dance. It was a difficult performance to watch in many ways as the message being delivered was vague and didn’t have an impact on me. The moments in the play that I expected the writers created to be hard-hitting were underwhelming as the play essentially focused on ideas that didn’t feel very important. In a country where 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence at some point in their life, and where anorexia and bulimia continue to be a growing problem, to make the spotlight moment of your feminist play about what underwear you should wear to feel attractive felt pedantic. When I discussed the play with fellow audience members in the interval the verdict felt unanimous – the message wasn’t quite clear and missed the mark.
However, it should be noted that the talent of the performers was undeniable and it was endearing to watch their natural likeability onstage. Some of the jokes were surprisingly enjoyable and I felt “cute” when I was encouraged to love myself and not my body. Visually it was spectacular and clever – it’s just a shame I didn’t know what I was meant to be feeling. If you leave a show not confident in what you have learnt from it then you probably haven’t learnt anything at all. I think the effort invested into this production was enormous and looking ahead I have faith that the actors’ talent will take them far.
Review by Kate Barr
David Levesley’s play Silent Meat explores the stories of four different characters as they navigate through life trying to make sense of the cards fate has handed them. One is a young gay man who is left devastated when his partner calls off the relationship at the height of their love. Another is a Canadian desperate to reconnect with her boyfriend after he returns from the army. We meet an older woman who has calmly decided to kill herself instead of allowing her illness to overcome her body. And then there is an American – who loves conspiracy theories and has managed to become fantastically successful in her career despite the teenage trauma of her boyfriend dying.
In short, the play was brilliant. The acting was so authentic – it is easy and often perceived as necessary in theatre to overdramatize your lines and actions, but what was lovely about this play was that all the lines were delivered so genuinely that it was hard to believe we were watching a play at all. Instead, I felt invited into a friendship circle. The dialogue was humorous without being ridiculous, emotional without overdoing it and thought-provoking without pushing an agenda. You could feel the stillness in the theatre as the entire audience connected to the pain and the victories of the characters. I’m really glad I chose to brave the outside world and take a chance on the performance. The climax of the production left me feeling cautiously optimistic about my own future pursuits of love – and for that, I would like to thank David Levesley.
Looking forward I think the following change could ultimately make it stronger and tighten the screws around the edges. What struck me was that it felt like the two storylines that created the strongest ripples of interest around me in the audience was the life of the young man and his mother (the older woman). The other two stories were almost flawlessly acted and weren’t difficult to watch at all, but because ultimately, they took time away from the stories that were more interesting they made the play lose a little momentum every time they were centre stage. I think there is enough material to focus the play on the two main storylines.
Silent Meat is a play that I would recommend to everyone.
Review by Kate Barr
Whalebone is about bodies: who takes up space, how much, and why. Three puppeteers stand awkwardly in corsets. A woman decides to take control of her body – deleting it, piece by piece. Reimagining Lolita’s lesser-known sister, Nabokov’s Laura, Whalebone collides puppetry and physical theatre in a world where bodies are painted, tucked, tightened and taught, where shadows are embarrassing and silhouettes become stencils. Irreverent feminist theatre, narrated by a talking vagina. (Hatch It Theatre – PHYSICAL THEATRE/PUPPETRY)
A gay couple meet in what feels like a destined encounter, only for their ideas of faith to be put to the test. An American PR executive searches for the answers to the death of a girl she’s never met. An elderly woman tries to reconnect with her childhood friend before euthanising herself with Mexican pet barbiturates. And, in Tel Aviv, a peppy Canadian vlogger moves in with her Israeli holiday fling, only for him to be called up to fight in Gaza. What does it feel like to discover your partner died via a google search? Why do people become obsessed with unsolved deaths on Reddit? What happens when moving in with your boyfriend means being accused of war crimes on Facebook? Set across three continents, Silent Meat is an exploration of what it feels like to love, lose and feel alone in the 21st century. (David Levesley & Juliet Clark – NEW WRITING)
31st October at 7.30pm