The B*easts, Bush Theatre

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by guest critic Joanna Trainor

Do you have to be responsible for your breasts?

A question you probably never thought you’d have to think about, but The B*easts pushes us to consider the very worst of society as Monica Dolan explores the sexualisation of female children.

Playing psychotherapist Tessa, Dolan takes us through a recent high-profile case she’s been dealing with. Going in not knowing the story, and watching it unfold, is incredibly powerful. But the importance magazines and the internet put on breasts as a symbol of a women’s sexuality and beauty is absorbed by a child called Lila. The consequences of which are so distressing that Tessa is called in.

And what if your breasts fail you? Dolan has neatly woven another thread through the story, about specialists, lumps and reconstructive surgery, that come from Tessa’s phone conversations with her family. There is some incredibly clever writing in The B*easts and these sporadic calls, complete with enjoyably jazzy ringtone, leave brilliant boob breadcrumbs to pick up along the way. While listening to Dolan talk about Lila and the sexualisation of breasts, Tessa’s situation ruminates in the back of your mind. How does the sexuality and functionality of breasts work in harmony with each other?

You don’t really get any idea about what role the audience are playing in the performance. We’re definitely part of the conversation, but we don’t know who it is that Tessa is divulging these great many secrets to, or what has convinced her to break doctor/patient confidentiality for the first time. During the phone calls with her family she simply says she’s waiting for her next client. This may be straying somewhat from the point of the piece, but something has made Tessa voice her opinion and that make The B*easts all the more fascinating.

The punches just keep coming in The B*easts. It’s one of those, “grab a friend and discuss endlessly” productions, and the more we do chat with each other, hopefully the more we can avoid a future where children are so heavily sexualised.

The B*easts runs through 3 March.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

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