Collective Rage: A Play in Five Betties is currently running at the Southwark Playhouse and, to be honest, I loved Loved LOVED this show. I cannot recommend it highly enough!
I’m not sure what the collective noun for Betties would be, in this instance, a “Rage of Betties” seems to suit the piece, however, what I can be sure of is that everything about this piece is just spectacular. From the sublime casting of 5 very different Bettys to the music and lighting that framed the piece, to the slick blocking and choreography that moved the piece along to the actual script itself.
This is a show about every woman, about labels, about society, about ‘theat-ah’ about pussy! mainly about pussy! It is deliberately in your face and I applaud it for being so.
I would assume it’s fair to state that Jen Silverman has written a play in which she aims to shock her audience, yet it’s not the words, actions or behaviour of the Bettys that shocked me, it was instead the stark realisation that the world does indeed look at women through a masculine-shaped lens that shocked me. In a way, each of the Bettys is initially presented to the audience in a one dimensional way, almost toy-like; there is Rich Barbie, Sporty Barbie, Neurotic I’ve No Friends Barbie, Sephora Barbie and Truck Barbie. The very thought that these Bettys may actually have feelings and aspirations and are not just one dimensional, or a toy to be played with, is a theme that strongly echoed throughout the production.
The piece has been beautifully crafted to deconstruct the society in which it exists, that is to say, everything we see and hear on stage is multi-layered and delivered with a big fat punch in the face. It is admirably fierce and triumphantly queer. Our Bettys reclaim their words, redefine language and take ownership of their existence and their sexuality in a play that is designed to be provocative and challenge preconceptions. For each and every stereotype that Silverman has written, she also subverts it, reclaims it and passes judgement on what it means to label a person, what it means to self-identify and what it means to seek validation.
As well as questioning what it is to be a woman, the play cleverly casts judgement on the theatre-going public and wannabe actors by referencing ‘theat-ah’ and juxtaposing it with the Shakespearean classic ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. This is pure genius and is a fabulous add-on to the overarching story that drives the piece.
The piece is performed by 5 hugely talented actors; Sarah Stewart, Lucy Mccormick, Beatriz Romilly, Johnnie Fiori and Genesis Lynea. Each of these performers is spectacular. Every performer holds their own and with each speech they make they raise the bar for the next person. Each performer shone and I really can’t criticise any of their performances. Each character was fully believable and rang of truth when on stage.
For me, the piece is like an updated, postmodern version of a David Mamet play that has joined forces with cabaret, puppetry, song and mayhem, resulting in a triumphant celebration of woman and her sexuality. However, as a warning, for those of you of a sensitive disposition, this play uses the word pussy lots, in fact it is said over and over and over and over again, if this upsets you, don’t go! (in fact, if this upsets you, you should definitely go and see Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties)
Review by Faye Stockley
Betty is rich; Betty is lonely; Betty’s busy working on her truck; Betty wants to talk about love, but Betty needs to hit something. Meanwhile, Betty decides to stage a production of that play-within-a-play from…what’s it called again? Summer’s Midnight Dream? In Collective Rage, the lives of five very different New York women named Betty collide at the intersection of anger, sex and “theat-ah.” As they meet, fall in love, rehearse, revel and rage, they realise that they’ve been stuck reading the same scripts for far too long.
Hitting the ring with an electrifying soundtrack, looks to kill and spectacular routines, this outrageous comedy packs the punch to shatter lacquered femininity into a thousand glittering pieces. Strongly influenced by cabaret and female drag, this exquisite rejection of shame and stereotype will punch you in the gut, break your heart and then take you dancing.
Cast: Sara Stewart (Betty 1), Lucy McCormick (Betty 2), Beatriz Romilly (Betty 3), Johnnie Fiori (Betty 4) and Genesis Lynea (Betty 5)
Director – Charlie Parham
Producers – Emma Hall and Nik Holttum
Casting – Claudia Blunt
Antic Face and Nik Holttum Productions presents
The UK première of
A PLAY IN FIVE BETTIES
By Jen Silverman
24 JAN – 17 FEB 2018