The Sphinx Theatre Writers Group have been developing new ideas for six months now and the penultimate session of the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival allowed us to peep at the fruits of their labour. First up was Jessica Siân’s White Lead directed by Chelsea Walker (the pair reuniting after their incendiary work on Klippies last year). Circling around ideas of artistic legacy, both genetic and physical, with a healthy dose of lesbian angst and same-sex parenting thrown in for good measure, Sian’s writing was undoubtedly elevated by fearsomely committed performances from the glorious Kirsty Bushell and Karen Bryson and definitely left me wanting more.
Bunch by Catriona Kerridge, directed by Holly Race Roughan took an interesting route into the world of its mystery, first up contrasting the nature of public and private grief through the all-too-real loss suffered by two young women and the almost manic behaviour of a professional mourner, relishing the shared emotions released by high profile deaths be it Princess Di or the victims of the Soham murders. Bunch took a little while to get going for me but once it did, delivering a hell of a twist, I was again hungry for a continuation. Sara Huxley, Natasha Rickman and Miranda Bell starred in that one.
As for How To Not Sink by Georgia Christou, a darker look at the struggles of parenthood when things aren’t ‘perfect’, the lessons still to be learnt by three generations of women were surprisingly moving given how little time we’d actually spent with them. Directed by Helen Barnett, the trials of teaching your child responsibility, no matter their capabilities, were painfully realised by Kirsty Adams and Zara Plessard, and then further complicated by Miranda Bell’s third generation, demonstrating the difficulties of escaping old patterns that just find a way of replicating.
And this session was rounded off by Dawn King’s Graves of Spartan Women, directed by Ros Philips and also starring Miranda Bell who definitely earned her keep in this hour! She played a salesperson for a pregnancy outsourcing company in another of these dystopian near-future worlds that don’t seem far enough away from reality for my liking. Here, a young couple Ruth Everett and Richard Cotton debated the ‘dangers’ of natural pregnancy versus the now more socially acceptable alternative of an incubator-born child and all the benefits that come with upgrading to the ‘platinum package’. Explorations of the parental, especially maternal, bond played out powerfully here, asking how much we lose as science progresses.