Above the Hen and Chicken Theatre Bar, Elle Robertson-Phillips performs a new kind of times-up tale. In the one-woman show The Whistling Kite you are given a dynamic performance from Elle. The show takes place entirely in an appointment with a therapist who is only referred to as David. He is presumed to be sitting across from her, where the audience is. Elle appears to be a ‘fleabagesque’ characterization of the ‘messy woman’ archetype.
It’s hilarious but intentionally depressing. She impressively addresses the damaging romanticization that has occurred with this archetype, especially in recent years. With this, the audience is given a unique insight into the origins of why certain women can end up craving approval and attention to such a damaging extent. It’s delivered in a quite poetic manner.
About two-thirds into the show, there’s a great twist. Elle’s character changes dramatically. With an accompanying shift in tone, from self-pitying to vengeful, the audience is brought into a revenge plot. In the end, I was left with what felt like theatrical whiplash. I’m impressed with the mysterious element to it all since I did not see that coming and the emotional connection felt with Elle is strong, thanks to powerful writing by Robertson-Phillips and the direction of Kay Dent, but the material feels almost too much like a therapy session that I walked in on and was forced to stay in. I left quite jarred and depressed. In the end, a confident and assertive Elle reclaims her narrative, and it’s supposed to be empowering. Unfortunately, I did not feel empowered by the show, it felt like I was being handed over trauma to deal with that wasn’t mine. The plot devices and twists were admirable, but there was nothing gained for me. I don’t know how to make a times-up story more digestible and empowering, but I know I did not find the answer here.
Review by Elisabeth Beer
This one-woman show is set over a fifty-minute therapy session between counsellor and client, although you may leave second-guessing which role Elle was playing.
This show boldly and at times, outrageously challenges all that we know and love of the ‘Messy Woman’ character that we’ve all become so attached to and fond of.
Both hysterically tragic and tragically hysterical, The Whistling Kite will make you want to laugh, cry and kick a door down, all at the same time.
21st & 22nd May
Written and performed by Elle Robertson-Phillips, TheWhistlingKite makes it’s debut in London.
directed by Kay Dent