Review: Double Infemnity, VAULT Festival

“Having a vagina doesn’t make you a feminist and it sure doesn’t make you a victim”

A one-woman feminist re-interpretation of the crime noir genre, the idea of Double Infemnity felt right up my boulevard from the moment I read about it. And marking the first collaboration between two female theatre companies, Little but Fierce and Paperclip Theatre – see, the VAULT Festival really does bring people together! – it was an enterprise I was happy to support.

I have to say though, that the reality didn’t quite match up to my expectation. Part of the problem lay in having seen a sharp and hilarious gay interpretation of the genre last week at this very festival in Tumulus. By comparison, Double Infemnity seemed to struggle in determining whether it was subverting, homaging or pastiching – the claim to be doing all three simultaneously feels a bit of a stretch.

It’s interesting to note there’s three writers credited here – Catherine O’Shea, Jennifer Richards and Naomi Westerman – and though the writing initially crackles with the potential of the new slant it explores, its feminist credentials end up a little blunted by the reliance on repetition  which threatens to turn the refreshingly novel into tiresome cliché well within the space of an hour. 

There are many points to be made about the paucity of complex female roles and drama’s tendency to stick to what it knows in nearly always making these kind of detectives men. And there’s laughs to be had in puncturing their pomposity, particularly in the love interests they’re able to score. And there’s also respect to be paid, as Philip Marlowe is one hell of a character, spearheading one hell of a mode of storytelling.

But it has to be done right and as the writing bites off more than it can chew with its sprawling remit, so too does Adriana Sanford’s production miss the mark in fatally disrupting the flow of the monologue with roughly imposed scene changes. And Katrina Foster’s Effie-Lou doesn’t quite have the necessary charisma to ride them out, as characterful as she is when uninterrupted. A work-in-progress then.

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