by Pam Gems.

Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 3 August 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat, Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval.

TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 June.

Where women were a generation ago.
When Pam Gems’ play appeared at Hampstead Theatre (after an Edinburgh production) in 1976 it contributed to the decade’s feminist debate. It’s a shock, seeing Helen Eastman’s Finborough production, to realise equal pay and maternity leave were battles of the day.

Fish – the oldest, in her mid-thirties – is the political activist (her name deriving from the feminist slogan about a woman needing a man as a fish does a bicycle) who leases the London flat where the disparate quarter live informally (like the early eighties characters in the Finborough’s previous show, Hard Feelings). Yet, for all her activism, she’s emotionally dependent on an unreliable man.

Not that she’d say so, unlike Dusa, panicking when her husband disappears abroad with their children. Both these lives are in suspension, awaiting the ring of a telephone.

Gems, fifty when the play premiered, brought the reflection of experience to her young characters; her play’s the tougher for it. Anorexic Vi could move ahead, while newcomer Stas floats through the play unworried, having taken control of a life split between daytime physiotherapy and night-time escorting – a contrast starkly presented in her brisk disrobing of white lab-coat for expensive black lingerie.

Moving briskly in and out, she throws her night-time earnings carelessly in a shoe-box, then buys her ’plane-ticket to study Marine Biology in Hawaii. Neither men nor Britain will hold her back.

Olivia Poulet might give more to Fish’s demo speech, but catches the emotional shading of her relationship with men, from apparently casual to depressive, while among the younger three, only Sophie Scott face an uphill battle between youthful manner and Dusa’s emotional torment (she’s the most sexually and socially conventional of the characters).

It’s fascinating to see a once-frontline report in the context of a new generation. Katie Bellman’s décor screams 1970s at us in its loud yet dowdy colours. But the real mark of the period is the telephone. Not just its bright-colours, but the different dynamic when news that would now come to separate mobiles rings out to all, with messages taken or receivers handed-over; technology has brought its own revolution.

Vi: Helena Johnson.
Dusa: Sophie Scott.
Stas: Emily Dobbs.
Fish: Olivia Poulet.

Director: Helen Eastman
Designer: Katie Bellman.
Lighting: Jess Glaisher.
Sound: Matt Downing.
Assistant director: Amy Mulholland.

2013-07-22 09:11:00

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