Review – Screw You, Sonder Ensemble, Flash Festival, University of Northampton 3rd Year Acting Students, Hazelrigg House, Northampton, 23rd April 2018

Flash FestivalIt only seems a few months ago that I enjoyed (and I really did!) the 2017 Flash Festival but, here it is again, all bright and shiny and ready to entertain for another year. There are twelve shows on offer for 2018, and, with any luck, Mr Smallmind and I will get to see all of them. I’m expecting keyboard arthritis by the end of the week.

Screw YouFirst up was Screw You, performed by the Sonder Ensemble in an intimate little studio upstairs at Hazelrigg House. Inspired by last year’s upsetting reports of epidemic sexual harassment in the entertainment industry that centred on the Harvey Weinstein revelations, Ceara Coveney, Gemma Leigh and Katie Lawson have assembled a fascinating, emotional and disturbing piece that takes verbatim accounts from some of the victims and weaves together an exposé of institutionalised harassment.

Ceara CoveneyIt’s largely a collection of accounts by women and men approached by sexual predators who can get them just the right job opportunity if they play along with their sordid game. For a time last year we were all reading these accounts in the papers and online every day, and after a while the regularity and frequency of these appalling stories lessened their impact and unfortunately made the subject almost mundane. But the shock of hearing these accounts is far greater when someone is standing in front of you and relating these intimidating and terrifying ordeals in person.

Gemma LeighThe three actors have created a superb ensemble piece bringing these stories to life through a range of characters. You see how some people cope with these experiences through humour; others are simply so broken by the devastation of what’s happened to them that they can barely string a sentence together. The effect of watching and hearing these accounts at close hand is very powerful.

Katie LawsonTechnically it was a great performance; all three actors have superbly clear enunciation, so it was a joy to listen to, and I also admired how they created a physically intriguing show from what could otherwise be quite static material. Whilst one person is telling their story the other two might be acting out public reactions, or performing some intimate mime, giving an indication of the physical harassment involved. With the help of some newspaper cuttings on the backdrop, and using only three stools, they gave depth to their shallow stage area and formed creative spatial relationships, which really helped to convey the material to the audience. All three also showed off an excellent command of accents, with some very effective North American and Antipodean voices in there.

At just 25 minutes long it fully endorses the old phrase that brevity is the soul of wit. Punchy, painful and poignant, this drove home the horrors of sexual harassment in both the entertainment industry and also out there in real life. A clear and angry voice in support of the #metoo victims. Great work!

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