Real?: Missing the Mark

Kay Dewes in Real? Photo: CuePix/Jane Berg - NAF 2016

Kay Dewes in Real? Photo: CuePix/Jane Berg – NAF 2016

I’ve written a lot about feminism and the patriarchy these past few days, because the works I’ve seen have dealt with these topics. But I wonder if I’ll ever stop writing about fighting the patriarchy, or if we’ll get to a point when the works aren’t as necessary because there’s been a miraculous victory.

Watching Real?, a physical theatre offering from young theatre makers Riandi Malan and Kay Dewes, directed by Peraldo Senekal, I’m reminded that women’s rights are as burning an issue as ever.

And the team does well to bring these issues to light, albeit reduced to some preachiness in most parts. I like their ideas around writing on the body. In the beginning a projection of a woman (Dewes I think) is covered in text – all the names and instructions and rules that girls and women are told to abide by. It’s a powerful image about how deeply ingrained and entrenched are notions of gender and performativity. About what is real beneath that.

The ideas are there, with good intentions, and in some moments not too badly brought to life. Whispering “scream” instead of shouting it. Good. Wearing a sad face during the acoustic cover of Girls Just Want To Have Fun – highlighting pretence and faked happiness. Good. The dark and sinister reworking of Mary Had A Little Lamb – good!

But the work just didn’t hit the right marks to make it good overall. For starters: too long, way too long. The message and monologue style becomes repetitive and the audience tunes out. It’s not a good theatrical tactic to drill home a ‘message’. It’s far more effective to allow the message to float through a story, or sink in through emotive imagery.

Instead, many of the statement/speeches were delivered in an obvious way, encapsulated by the clichéd physical box on stage wherein the women are boxed.

The acting and performance work needs attention. Of course, this is due to there being no characters as such, and being left to simply “be impassioned” about what you’re saying… it doesn’t ring any empathetic bells. And so, I know the content is of dire importance, but it could simply have been delivered in a pamphlet.

Most of the monologues about “I want to spread my wings and fly” or “beauty doesn’t last forever” etc., can be cut. They don’t add anything to make an audience empathetic to the cause. Instead we feel lectured and that’s the easiest way to lose an audience quickly. Develop the moments that are understated and subtle – the parts that don’t involve you explaining in monologue why patriarchy is bad – and there could be some potential in Real?

– Sarah Roberson

Real? is on tomorrow 09 July at 20.30 at the B2 Arena. Programme notes & bookings here.

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