Ladylike, Arcola Theatre

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by Nastazja Somers

Casa Festival, London’s largest Latin American arts festival is an annual event that is not
to be missed. Some of the most groundbreaking and refreshing work I’ve seen in my 8 years in London was staged at Casa, including the incredible, heart-stopping 2017 production of Mendoza, a Mexican adaptation of Macbeth. British theatre reflects British society so to say a resistance to staging international work is quite present would be an understatement.

On the opening night of the festival, there are two productions at the Arcola. I’m heading to Ladylike. Devised by Ella Mesma Company, a UK-based company, the show uses dance and movement to analyse and investigate gender roles and female sexuality. There is a lot to unpack in this one-hour show. Various segments focus on different aspects of female roles in society whilst also digging into the big subject of violence against womxn.

The performers mesmerise with their physicality, and it is clear that this ensemble has been working together for some time. The precision of the movement and the trust that all performers have in each other is both beautiful and moving. As the piece progresses, the feminist messages build on each other. Ladylike is not a piece that will satisfy those who don’t like figuring it out for themselves; there is a lot open to interpretation and the use of Spanish language makes the experience even more intimate and special.

There is a space to develop the piece dramaturgically and the through-line needs work, but the talent of Anna Alvarez, Azara Meghie, Hsing Ya Wu and Lucia Afonso is incredible to watch.

Ladylike runs though 19 July at the Arcola Theatre in London.

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