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Review of Grotty presented by Damsel Productions at The Bunker

Grotty, The Bunker - Courtesy of The Other Richard - Rebekah Hinds, Izzy Tennyson and Grace Chilton
Grotty, The Bunker – Courtesy of The Other Richard – Rebekah Hinds, Izzy Tennyson and Grace Chilton

I’m not entirely sure how helpful a show like Grotty is in terms of helping to understand lesbian relationships. The experiences recounted and demonstrated by Rigby (Izzy Tennyson) were detailed in their descriptions, perhaps overly so in places: despite the shock factor of certain proceedings, it was difficult to maintain interest throughout. This is a young lady who may or may not, as it turns out, happen to be a lesbian (the ‘dropout rate’, for reasons not fully explored in the show, is apparently high) having relations with other women who may or may not happen to be lesbians themselves.

There genuinely doesn’t seem to be very much to take away from this rather sordid tale, other than one of the blessings (for want of a better word) of living in a liberal democracy is the ability to exercise one’s right to shag whomever one likes – assuming, of course, the other party consents. But then we already knew that was the case, and few, if any, in this unassuming London theatre audience would have anything against lesbians seeking companionship.

Or employment, for that matter. Perhaps I missed it in all the details about who is sleeping with whom, but I couldn’t determine what anybody did for a living, save for Dr Alexandra (Anita-Joy Uwajeh), and even her exact line of work in the medical profession was difficult to determine for certain. Rigby succeeds in her quest for bedroom activity: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love came to mind during this play, as did a previous production at the Bunker Theatre, an adaptation of the Arthur Schnitzler play La Ronde, all about seduction and lust (press night goodies included, as a fellow reviewer at this show reminded me, condoms).

The unfortunately monikered Toad (Rebekah Hinds) and Witch (Grace Chilton) break up what would otherwise have been a continuous monologue from Rigby. In any case, the storyline is entirely from Rigby’s perspective, and the other characters are underdeveloped. The inclusion of Rigby’s mother (Clare Gollop), named only as Mother, was so brief and so late in the play that it may as well not have happened: a silence that goes on for far too long finally ends, only to be replaced by a banal conversation concluding with an agreement between mother and daughter that things will be fine in the end, whatever that means.

The end, when it comes, is a bit of a cliffhanger, and the abrupt ending rather cold and therefore unsatisfying. Rigby seems to walk off into the sunlight (or, rather, the moonlight), to carry on just as before. This isn’t the first play to point out that having intercourse is not necessarily the same as expressing whatever its participants may deem to be ‘love’. Tennyson’s Rigby does enjoy excellent audience rapport, however, largely through old-fashioned storytelling – not all events, thankfully, are dramatized.

Some perceptive and observant digs are made. One is about how the ‘G’ in ‘LGBT’ seems to be emphasised more than the ‘L’, ‘B’ and ‘T’ – there are, Rigby tells the audience in an entertaining manner, relatively few bars and clubs that specifically cater for the lesbian market. Another is about National Health Service thresholds for referrals – for reasons explained in the narrative, Rigby finds herself suicidal, “but not suicidal enough for treatment”. I found it difficult to fully engage with the play, though the near-universal need for love and companionship is captured marvellously. This sounds like a personal ad, but all things considered, the production is best described thus: young, genuine, good sense of humour.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Following the success of Brute at Soho Theatre, Damsel Productions teams up again with award-winning writer Izzy Tennyson to present Grotty, a semi-autobiographical piece centred on East London’s lesbian scene. The play is a provocative, satirical and at times grotesque exploration of intergenerational tension in the lesbian community, as well as struggles with mental health, identity and grief.

Performance Dates Tuesday 1st May – Saturday 26th May 2018
Running time 70 minutes
Twitter @DamselProd, @IzzyTennyson, @KittyWordsworth,
@HannahHauerKing, @GROTTYplay

Writer Izzy Tennyson
Director Hannah Hauer-King
Producer Kitty Wordsworth
Designer Anna Reid
Lighting Designer Zoe Spurr
Sound Designer Alexandra Faye-Braithwaite
Production Manager Heather Doole

Rigby Izzy Tennyson
Witch/Elliot Grace Chilton
Toad/Kate Rebekah Hinds
Josie/Natty/Dr Alexandra Anita-Joy Uwajeh
The Bunker, 53A Southwark Street London SE1 1RU


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