The warm, intimate setting of Camden People’s Theatre was perfect for this radical one-woman play, written and acted by Kathryn Griffiths. It was completely sold out, as is Sunday, but there are still a few tickets left for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday (15th to 18th October ’14). Although CamdenPT is not large by West End standards, it was nevertheless notable that the people packing it out were precisely those that the big theatres are trying to attract – under-30s, young professionals and arty types, intelligent. They laughed a lot at Kathryn’s writing and acting, and applauded, and were visibly moved, carried along with the drama. Apart from the occasional ringing of a staged mobile phone, there is no technology, no mention of the internet, or anything digital at all. This is a visceral, earthy production grappling with timeless issues of love, sex, work, relationships, and it is shockingly real, not remotely virtual. I hope it is not a modern heresy against the digital age to suggest that this might be part of its attraction to these young adults.
Anna Reid’s set seems designed to suggest order within a degree of chaos, or vice versa. It is cleverly done, especially the upright bed. This device, complete with wrist chains, means we the audience see and hear the action – and there is a quite a good deal of interesting “action” in the play – from the perspective of voyeurs looking down from the ceiling. Kathryn is brave, beautiful and vulnerable in the sex scenes. Director Celine Lowenthal has made these aspects of “fierce” quite magical.
Griffiths is a versatile actor who brings a sense of enormous fun along with professional skill in this gripping tragicomedy. She can do many accents, many personas, from male to female, American south to her native Welsh, and we hear and watch multiple transformations. Even though she wrote the play, there is a lot for her to remember in terms of performance. As she went on and became more confident in the material, and the audience responded well, her delivery became stronger and we really were drawn in as it approached the climax and denouement.
Some of it I personally found a little hard to follow but noone else seemed to have that problem. That made it more interesting for me, because it created a sense of being at something new and different, yet that still worked. Think Tracey Emin’s bed crossed with Ibsen and you have an idea of the concept. It is not so much about falling “in love” as falling “intoxicated”, to steal a line. The destructiveness of alcohol as the drug of choice still for so many across all generations is touched on.
The plot is linear, and chronicles the life and loves of a girl growing up. This is not a city power woman grasping a moneyed future, or a Caitlin Moran making a triumph out of hunger and ambition. This is a vulnerable young woman searching for love in a world that prefers to treat in sex and money, a world where men and women are still failing, or choosing not, to understand each other properly. Was it ever any different, we wonder as we hear about a relative urged to stay with a dreadful man because he owned a house. Art and prostitution are explored. Perhaps other writers who became journalists, such as myself, remember being accused by left-wing feminist friends in the 1980s of “prostituting” their art. The 21st century version of this dilemma for young but not rich young women is one of the questions Griffiths is posing in this play. In the programme notes she writes: “Fierce is about the relationship between survival and fulfilment: How you achieve the former determines whether you can or ultimately cannot achieve the latter.” It seems to challenge and explore her own art as a successful young playwright and also novelist, but also reveals a woman exposed in her yearning for love in the face of the fundamental need simply to survive. Our hearts are broken, along with hers, as the action and the set go dark.
Review by Ruth Gledhill
Written & performed by Kathryn Griffiths
Director – Celine Lowenthal
Designer – Anna Reid
Lighting Design – Christopher Nairne
Producer – Héloïse Werner
Felicity’s run away.
She may have accidentally murdered her step-dad, left her lovely mum in the lurch, and forgotten her shoes, but now she’s in the Big Smoke and she’s determined to make a clean start. Unfortunately for Felicity, the first people she meets are not London’s most savoury offerings…
First there’s Maggie May-Lynn, the disheveled Madam of London’s Worst Brothel, who sends her on a mission to find some new clientele. Next she meets Melbany, the happy-go-lucky Aussie barmaid with approximately two brain cells and a slight alcohol problem. And finally there’s Finn Crawford: a gorgeous, gay, sex-a-holic artist, who’s just been cut off by her patron for sleeping with all her models, including her patron’s wife.
Between a crotchety artist, an idiot chef, an eighty-year-old arsonist and a horny teenage girl, Kat Griffith’s one-woman show is an unwholesome farce about sex, art and the lovelorn lay-abouts of London-town.
Camden people’s Theatre
Tuesday 14th to Sunday 19th October 2014