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Review: Hear Me Howl at the Old Red Lion Theatre

Hear Me Howl (c) Will Lepper
Hear Me Howl (c) Will Lepper

Never before have I turned up to see a show and been presented with a pair of earplugs, and I have to say this raised a lot of questions, mostly along the lines of do they think this show is so terrible that at some point I’m going to have to block it out entirely? Happily, I was quickly corrected in this assumption when I walked into the theatre and spotted a drum kit centre stage, and after 70 minutes I can confirm that the drum kit was very loud. 

If it wasn’t already clear from the title, the whole point of Hear Me Howl does appear to be noise, noise and more noise. The message was quite literally shouted throughout, often competing with the sound drums. You really felt the anger and confusion of the character as she grapples with the fact she is (accidentally) pregnant and the pressure she feels as she decides what to do about it. There is undoubtedly social stigma around babies, and the assumption that all women should want to have them, and the woman’s rage at this was palpable. That said, the noise did get too much at times and the lack of respite and subtlety throughout got a bit too much at times. I longed for a few minutes of quiet and was positively ecstatic when the drumsticks were put away albeit temporarily. The final 10 minutes were much more subtle and therefore had a much greater impact. From all the confusion came a clear and calm ending, and this contrast from the earlier shouting did provide a somewhat emotional ending. It was here that performer Alice Pitt-Carter’s talents were best displayed as she explained her decision. The script, written by Lydia Rhynne, was also best displayed here. Whilst it was witty throughout, the jokes sometimes felt a little forced and I connected much more to the play as the emotions portrayed felt more real towards the end.

However, this is the real issue I have with the play – being a woman in the modern day can be difficult, and I understand that I really do. There are so many expectations placed upon you by society but here’s the thing, as a twenty-something “young professional” this play did not make me feel enlightened nor did I feel like it was OK to want a choice when it comes to babies. In fact, I felt the exact opposite because the truth is I’m rarely asked about when I’m going to have children, in fact, other than my Mum, I cannot think of a single person who has asked me that question. I accept that I am in a minority here as this play highlights, but I also think there’s another issue that arises as a result. As someone who is upfront about wanting a family I am often criticised for complying to social norms, as if I can’t make a decision for myself, and I’m often told that I am somehow harming the feminist cause through my backward thinking. And here’s the thing, this play only reinforced those messages, by trying to advocate that it was OK to choose not to have a baby it ended up suggesting that women should not want to have babies because we only want them because of social programming, and that if we do have children we are simply harming our already fragile planet. By promoting one choice it ended up disparaging another. I don’t think this was the intended message. In fact I’m pretty sure the show was trying to explain that each choice was just as valid but, unfortunately, the loud and aggressive nature of the delivery led to it missing its mark a little.

Overall I think the subject matter of this play is very important, and with a sharp and witty script it has the potential to send a clear message, but as it stands, for me, it was a very loud and very confusing 70 minutes (although you will be pleased to know I didn’t need the earplugs).

3 Star Review

Review by Emily Diver

From Lights Down Productions, developed with support of Soho Young Company, comes Hear Me Howl – a bitingly honest portrayal of one woman’s personal revolution.
Jess is turning 30 when she presses pause on the conventional life she’s been living and joins a punk band. Sure, some might argue that punk is dead, others could say she should really stick to the day job, but the resounding concern is: shouldn’t she be settling down by now? From behind her drum kit, warming up for her very first gig, Jess lurches defiantly into an unknown future.

September 18th – September 29thOld Red Lion


  • Emily Gami

    I am a 25 year old Geography teacher who really loves the theatre. I first fell in love with the theatre when I was 15 and since moving to London 4 years ago I have tried to see as many shows as possible. On the rare occasions I am not at work or at the theatre I can usually be found on a tennis court or curled up somewhere with a good book

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