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Dry Season at Canada Water Theatre

Find your niche market,” is one of the pivotal lines in the musical Kinky Boots. Given the sheer number of the world’s population that go through the menopause, it’s somewhat surprising that, in these supposedly more liberated times, there aren’t more shows like Kat Lyons’ Dry Season. Talking about the menopause is still a niche ‘market’, for want of a better term, and it shouldn’t be. I don’t think I’ve come across anything quite like this show before – an unflinchingly disarming story that engages the mind when it wants to, even if it occasionally veers close to self-indulgence.

Kat Lyons - Dry Season. Photographer Suzi Corker.
Kat Lyons – Dry Season. Photographer Suzi Corker.

It is with (albeit welcome) irony that the venue, sharing a building with a public library that acts as one of the London Borough of Southwark’s Warm Spaces, was almost uncomfortably warm, though hot flushes, as Lyons was keen to point out, is only one of many menopausal symptoms. They seem to like a list, with attention to detail being a trait that repeatedly crops up – they’ve read everything in the information leaflet that comes with their oestrogen gel prescription. Let’s just say some of its contents are surprising and revelatory, even to some of the women in the audience who also take HRT (there was a feedback session after the show, which involved shared experiences as well as questions about the show and its creative process).

Seizing the opportunity to defy theatrical conventions, Lyons discusses the general need for plays to have a narrative arc and a definitive ending, even if it leaves the potential for a sequel. But their story hasn’t, by definition, ended yet, so wouldn’t tidying up loose narrative ends be false and pretentious? Having brought the audience along on a journey that came across at times more like a stream of consciousness than a carefully curated plot, the uncertainties and imponderables of life don’t fit neatly into an emotionally charged conclusion. I thought the ending was refreshingly realistic: a lot of unknowns still unresolved wouldn’t work for every show, but it does for this one. Lyons’ recommended course for HRT doesn’t come with a huge amount of scientific evidence, because completed research into premature menopause is still sparse, so there’s a significant element of risk involved even by doing nothing.

They even refer to early menopause as “premature ovarian failure” (a term common enough to be acknowledged by the NHS ) – and to be medically deemed a ‘failure’ is something Lyons takes with a mixture of stoicism and dark humour. By making their story so personal, there is no attempt at extrapolating their experiences to the population at large – it’s their journey, and they’d be totally comfortable with anyone saying HRT wasn’t for them, for whatever reason.

The selective use of a microphone was a curious choice in a show that would have benefited from continuous amplified sound. Some tech gremlins worked their magic (or, rather, poison), such that the full effect of much of an image-heavy scene couldn’t be realised. A couple of moments go on a little longer than they should (do I really want to sit there watching someone moisturising in silence, in a ‘spoken word’ performance?), but the show highlights with enthusiasm how much still needs to be done to inform and share knowledge about something that quite literally affects half the world.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Menopause? Seriously? WTF? Kat thought they were far too young to worry about menopause; biology thought differently. Now their hormones are going haywire, their diary is full of NHS visits and sleep is a distant memory. Join Kat on a journey featuring anxiety, insomnia, and self-conscious jogging as they explore their changing identity, question societal expectations of age and gender and do their best to navigate the first chaotic year. Interweaving music, movement and medical texts with original poetry and animation, Dry Season is a witty, honest and intimate spoken word theatre show about questioning assumptions and learning to rewrite your story.

Date: Thursday 9 March 2023
Time: 8pm
Venue: Canada Water Theatre and Library, 21 Surrey Quays Road, London, SE16 7AR
Running Time: 60 mins (no interval)
Age Guidance: 14+
Box Office: https://www.canadawatertheatre.org.uk/

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