Review, The Trials and Passions of Unfamous Women, Anaina Leite, Lara Duate, Clean Break, LIFT Festival, Brixton House, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

A part promenade, part traditional black box, The Trials and Passions of Unfamous Women brings the past and the present in a clash of injustice.

Beginning the production, we are introduced to our guide, our jester who introduces the performance in a casual and relaxed way. This character has its own darkness and path and isn’t one to forget. We are soon introduced to four different figures from past mythologies and stories, where we are given the choice of interacting with their stories. This later propels to the current day, a courtroom and continued injustices of women.

For me, it took a little time to realise and understand the reasoning for the great transition. The style and approach to them seemed very different, a potential disconnect but in time, did begin to culminate. The stories aim to transcend space and time and show that women imprisonment and hardship isn’t a new thing; it is steeped in history, and only changed its appearance from the invention of the justice system.

A clever staging; we are brought initially into opulance of these grand women, with their gold and magnificence over us. However, there was a choice to have different stories happen at the same time; you do not get to see all of them but the ones you do see create a spacial dynamic which is hard to engage with and you really do want to engage! I fear this is more the choice of performance space than a theatrical choice; the square room is pretty large but not enough to separate the sound. Not unusual for a promenade or immersive piece, we miss out on two stories, but all the more reason to come again. Despite the sound clash, microphones are provided and, perhaps a personal choice of mine, were relied upon too much and weren’t effective. They were there to help amplify these women’s voices and only hindered. It was hard to hear all the discussions and interactions. I personally would prefer no microphones in every show and the traditional projection to be used, but appreciate that Clean Break is known for working with non-traditional actors and therefore this may not be a focus.

Despite these nigglings, we get to a point where true stories of the women we see are broadcast. And they are done with informality, with vulnerability and courage. These are powerful and supported with theatricality but not bombarded. This subtlety is immensely effective and providing that moment to hook us in. Their familiarity and kindness to us as audience members in interaction is heartwarming, breaking a bit of the beginning sense of god-like characters and positioning them as one of us mortals, continuing to help tell the story of these ordinary women.

The Trials and Passions of Unfamous Women is a play with a lot of scope. The ideas are there and so is the effort, but some stage and tech choices sadly impacted its effect.

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