The Tricycle theatre is exceptional at event programming. Last year’s Olivier-nominated The Great Game: Afghanistan season, which is revived later this summer, was the must have ticket of the summer and this year’s Women, Power And Politics season promises more of the same.
Like The Great Game, Women Power And Politics has brought together a group of playwrights to present short plays around a theme made clear by the three words of the season’s title. Nine bite-sized plays combine to create two separate shows: Then, which gazes back into the past at how women have struggled and fought; and Now, which explores the present situation.
The brevity of the playwrights’ allotted time – each piece comes in at around 30 minutes or less – seems to have encouraged the all-female writing line-up of talent to be playful with form. Moira Buffini’s Handbagged (Then) features both past and present Queen Elizabeth IIs and Maggie Thatchers reminiscing, wittily but not always factually, about their strained relationship. Joy Wilkinson’s Acting Leader (Now) attempts to recreate Margaret Beckett’s unsuccessful challenge for the Labour leadership with just two performers but a host of characters, while Zinnie Harris’s The Panel (Now) is a quick-fire conversation delivered by five men sat around a table, weighing up the various merits of the female job hopefuls they have recently interviewed.
The season, which boasts Laurence Olivier Award winners Marie Jones and Bola Agbaje among its writers, is probably the only place you will be able to see a play about Elizabeth I’s struggle with power (Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s The Lioness) and a piece in which the Prime Minister has a long, strained run-in with a leading porn star wielding fake female genitalia (Sam Holcroft’s Pink) in the same day.
As with The Great Game, Women Power And Politics is no tub-thumping treatise. Rather, each of the nine plays takes an entertaining, focussed look at one small area for discussion. Jones’s The Milliner And The Weaver tells the story of an Irish mother who has to put thoughts of suffrage aside as her sons face a bloody battle in the fight against home rule. Lucy Kirkwood’s Bloody Wimmin picks up the story of the Greenham Common demonstration and how quickly it has been forgotten. Sue Townsend’s You, Me And Wii portrays a disaffected working class family for whom politics holds little interest.
With the ensemble called on to play anyone from a member of royalty to a gyrating wannabe Student Union President, the cast of 12 deliver sterling performances, led by Kika Markham, Stella Gonet and Niamh Cusack, who stands out as both the torn Irish mother and a Margaret Beckett who never quite believes in herself or her chances of winning. Lara Rossi, who is yet to graduate from LAMDA and is making her professional debut in this season, proves herself a versatile performer with a bright future, portraying half of the House of Commons in the course of the evening.
Unlike The Great Game, Women Power And Politics probably doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, however it does shine an entertaining, timely light on issues that have been lurking in a dark corner of our consciousness for a little too long.