Play number four of the Then half of Women, Power and Politics season at the Tricycle Theatre
The only play to feature the entire ensemble is Lucy Kirkwood’s Bloody Wimmin which rounds off the evening for Then. Taking the shocking fact, that many women in their 20s have never heard of Greenham Common or what it stood for as its starting point, it looks back at the protest camp set up in the name of nuclear disarmament, how it developed and what it came to mean to the women who were there, and then it moves to look at what, if any, impact it has on today’s society.
Starting off on Greenham Common itself with a delightful sending-up of the stereotypical view of the protesters, chunky-knit and wellington-boot wearing lesbians smelling of wood-smoke and obsessed with petty squabbles usually about the minutiae of cleaning and cooking rotas and missing ladles. Things take a more serious tone with the arrival of pregnant Helen, played by Claire Cox, and we follow her on her journey as a woman seeking personal liberation and enlightenment away from the daily grind and society’s expectations of her, especially as a mother and an expecting one as well to boot. Her confrontation with husband Bob (Oliver Chris) is genuinely shocking as they play a game of brinkmanship with the emotional missiles they have on each other, papering the cracks of their marriage and so we see Greenham actually as the catalyst for empowering women.
Shifting the action to a modern-day climate change protest camp cleverly plays up how things have changed and in some cases, stayed exactly the same. John Hollingworth plays James, Helen’s now-teenage son with a beautiful gaucheness, unsure of how to deal with women when his sexual attraction conflicts with his highly feminist upbringing and Lara Rossi brings a spikiness to her activist Sophie who is completely unaware of what the women of her parents’ generation went through in order to try and relocate political discussion in a more inclusive sphere, eventually softening when she discovers her own grandmother was present on Greenham Common. Kika Markham’s tender recollections of someone who only had a small encounter on the Common yet the ramifications of which changed her whole life and her marriage is captured magnificently in a 5 minute soliloquy which summed everything about the whole season perfectly: “it’s very easy to laugh at passion”.
Given the number of characters and the shifts in time and places, Bloody Wimmin achieves an incredible amount in its 30 minutes, managing to encapsulate the idiosyncracies of protest camps in two time periods and combine that with the testimony of two women whose lives were irrevocably changed by their various contact with Greenham Common, all the while suggesting that whilst the overt memories of that time may have faded, its significance still endures in the subtle ways in which it has influenced political engagement, especially around the protest dialogue.