When Natasha Rickman and Unfolds Theatre were questioned about the motivation behind their cross-gendered Twelfth Night, they had a simple response – “because we want to”.
This answer spawned a rapid-response event of the same name, where five female writers are provided with a news article stimulus and eight hours in which to write a 10-minute play. The next day, a director and cast rehearse the brand new works and perform them in the evening. These five short pieces are rough and ready, but their immediacy and relevance is undeniable. They also provide a much-needed platform for women in theatre to showcase their abilities, and have the potential to develop into longer works.
Part of the joy of multi-work, new writing nights is the range of pieces, both in topic and form. The pick n’ mix format is joyful and exciting, with the sparky exhilaration that comes with something so new. The pieces by Shelley Davenport, Gracy Goldman, Nia Jones, Peri Olufunwa and Nastazja Somers vary in quality but are bold and unapologetic reflections of contemporary and dystopian female stories.
The first and last pieces are the strongest, both dramaturgically and in their staging. Scripts this short tend to work better with simpler structures that don’t get too burdened with subtext and metaphor. These two get to the point quickly and effectively, immediately engaging the audience with a clear story and contrasting characters. There are some underlying, bigger themes that could be explored if the plays were to be extended.
Despite the strength in these two works, the event itself is solidly curated with a clear agenda and experienced artists. There is some muddy writing and a few feminist/feminine tropes, but women writing female-led work is largely a recipe for complex, genuine characters in circumstances that reflect the lives of real women.
Because We Want To runs through 5 November.
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