Every year, Theatre Uncut commissions several short plays in reaction to the current political and social climate. With the aim of igniting discussion and possibly political change, the plays are then released for free and performed as widely as possible. This year, the theme is power from the female perspective. All the plays have been written by women and, in this instance, facilitated by the female-run company, Braw Fox Theatre. This is their fourth year staging Theatre Uncut events and they have it down to a slick and enjoyable format.
They chose to create a scratch-style performance concluding with discussions and cake. The tone of the night was relaxed, unpretentious and sincere – well suited to the Traverse Theatre’s style.
The night opens with a magical body swap between a rich, white, male politician and the woman of colour who was his bartender. Who Runs the World forces the male figure to confront the feelings that come from being made to feel second class in a world he helped create. Following on from this, The Power of Plumbing is a monologue detailing a successful female plumber in a climate-change-fuelled mass drought. It asks us why it takes humanity to fall into such desperate situations before gender norms are discarded, as well as whether corruption of power is a gendered issue. Next is Mortar, an especially contentious piece, which explores the bizarre but very real situation of free accommodation offered in exchange for female company and if this is ever acceptable.
Safe illustrates the difficulty of creating female-only spaces and the backlash from many men on internet platforms. It highlights the illogical violence women in the spotlight face, but also the lack of space men have to safely express vulnerability. Finally, Nobody uses all the woman in the cast to ask “who decides what’s important?” in the context of a room full of school students, both itching in their kilts and itching to rebel against archaic notions of who decides what success means and who can be successful. If money means success: are those born into it already successful? While not one play seems to fall short, this last piece feels like a rousing call to arms and the actors really make the effort to include the audience in their camaraderie.
A fuller production, rather than a scratch performance, could present these brilliant plays better without affecting the post-show discussion. That said, Braw Fox Theatre’s production feels unapologetic in its opinions – though it gave a platform to those who may disagree – and was executed with humour. Tonight’s performances were not just preaching to the choir. The success of the post-show Q&A is rooted in the reversal of roles, as directors ask the audience questions that have been prepared beforehand – cleverly avoiding the shy silences present within many similar conversations.
At the end you are asked to finish “Power is…” and tweet the answer. For me, power is creating a riveting event that portrays strong opinions while being acutely aware that we don’t know all the answers. Power is also being the person in charge of the cake.