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The Female Gaze and Other Stories (Volume 1) at The Cockpit Theatre

The Female Gaze and Other Stories
Jasper William Cartwright, Mj Lee, Dylan Morris, Angelina Chudi (from L – R)
Photo: Lily Vetch, lilyvetch.com

The Female Gaze and Other Stories (Volume 1) at The Cockpit Theatre, produced by Rich Creative (Annabelle Rich and Emily Warren).

A night that oozed buzz and class, from the pro-quality teaser video to the queue for return tickets, the writing, and performances; linked vignettes exploring female sexuality through women’s eyes.

First was ‘The Curious Case of Millicent Marz’ (writer Frances Knox in wellingtons and tiara), wry observations on coming of age, the panache of a stand-up comic aided by an absurdly cast Aphrodite, Abe Buckoke, who also directed. Directed by Will Jeffs, the emotional unavailability of the millennial male was shrewdly observed, and well played by Jasper William Cartwright, in Madelaine Holt’s ‘The Wrong Idea’, a man terrified by fear of commitment, and overwhelmed by the maturity and poise of the classy Annabelle Rich.

Matthew Gardner’s ‘Fantasy’ paired’ Alexander Stutt’s withdrawn and vulnerable celebrity, with Sophie Ablett’s seductress, a neat reversal of male and female roles, aggressive courtship rituals and a killer twist. Olivia Ouwehand directed.

In ‘It’s All Relative’, MJ Lee and Serena Tombolini (directed by Rich) wrestled with the love of a gay woman for a straight friend and family member, the almost certainly doomed affair triggered by male bravado, and a desperate need for an escape by a girl trapped in a controlling relationship. Hannah Puddefoot created an intriguing scenario.

After the interval came ‘It Was Just There’ by Nathan Ellis – two ‘straight’ married women Zoe Thorne and Mary Antony discuss the meaning of a hanging red rope, a symbol of their developing feelings for one another. An intriguing and puzzling piece, with beautiful symbolism. Rohan Perumatantri directed.

Emily Warren’s ‘Be Mine for Me’, directed by Francesca Tennant, asks if love can conquer orientation. A girl and a boy. Their love is evident, but not equal. When he rejects her, she begins to put on his clothes. But she cannot change. With an emotive climax, Fox Jackson-Keen and Warren’s powerful chemistry made the piece shine.

Finally came ‘A-Sexual- Being’ by Sophie Ablett. Bea believes in commitment, Alia in open relationships, and reveals her fear over Bea’s asexuality, an important but overlooked issue. James Messer directed Angelina Chudi and Dylan Morris.

The producers recently chatted with us at LondonTheatre1
[Annabelle] “Our aim was to create a scratch night with an overarching story so that the audience felt there was a discussion going on between the different writers. It starts with a one-woman show talking about straight dating and ends with a lesbian mixed race couple talking about asexuality. We covered quite a bit of ground and hopefully got the audience thinking about the plurality of sexuality and identity.

LT1. Did the creative producer crack the whip, or did shared vision carry the piece?
[Emily] – “… for us, being artistic director and creative producer has merged into a single role shared between two people…(an) opportunity to see how we could create a company for a single evening that was close-knit, committed and inventive about how to bring the pieces to life.

LT1. How did the company form?
[Annabelle] “I co-produced my first show with SLAM theatre, Emily was a cast member and she approached me to produce the show she wrote and directed. We both strongly believe in promoting female voices in the work we do, and in trying to be as experimental as possible – we’d like to keep our fingers in all the creative genres, be it film, one woman comedy, naturalism, or absurdist drama.

LT1. Is ‘female sexuality’ confused with (limited) male expectations of female sexuality?
[Emily] “Female artists, particularly of colour, have obviously not been accorded the same platform as white male artists, so naturally, there are fewer authentic and diverse portrayals of female sexuality. It’s also the case that female sexuality is often restricted to depictions of straight relationships, or lesbian relationships firmly filtered through a male gaze… we specifically want to promote stories that place women at their forefront. For us, it’s about showing the light and shades that are found in female sexuality, to remove the stigma behind it and demonstrate its universality.

A few quick-fire questions…
LT1. Can a man be a feminist?
[Emily] Yes, just as he can also not be racist.

LT1. Netflix or nightclub?
[Annabelle] Netflix, although I love a good dance! 
[Emily] Definitely Netflix. 

LT1: Marmite or Bovril?
[Annabelle] Nutella!
[Emily] Nutella!

LT1. His place or yours?
[Annabelle] Depends if you want to kick them out or do a runner! 
[Emily] Hers.

LT1: What your plans now? When can we see you again?
Volume II is in the works so watch this space! We’ve also got some exciting plans to do with our ‘Girls on Fire’ Season so check out our website www.richcreativeprodutions.com for more details.

A real treat from a new partnership, movers and shakers in the post-austerity theatrical revival of London’s vibrant fringe scene. Individual and self-contained, these stories all fitted within a narrative arc, the effect was episodic, there was a real sense of an uber-plot linking this pieces, a female sexual odyssey, the stated aim of the night. All this and bums on seats too. It is rare to see a themed night curated this well.

4 stars

By Laura Thomas

The Female Gaze & Other Stories – Volume I: The Sexual Odyssey.
RICH CREATIVE brings you a brand new feminist scratch night with a different theme every time. Volume I: The Sexual Odyssey will showcase stories about sex and desire spanning the sexuality spectrum, focusing on female characters.

This production is part of Girls On Fire: a brand new season about women gaining, losing, and maintaining power in contemporary society. We bring you new pieces from emerging writers about what it means to be female when it comes to sexuality, ethnicity and politics.

Rich Creative is run by emerging artists Annabelle Rich and Emily Warren. Our company aim is to provide a platform for female artists who want to create experimental work. Our latest piece, Modern Love, explored sexual consent between women as a hybrid production combining theatre with film, and received fantastic **** reviews.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/richcreativeproductions
Twitter: @Rich_Creative
Instagram: @richcreativeproductions
Show taking place at The Cockpit
Gateforth Street, London NW8 8EH


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