Chloe Wade’s As SHE Liked It is an inventive and compelling look at systemic misogyny at Greenwich Theatre and on tour
“No men were harmed during the making of this play”
Women on stage? And in film? Madness! Chloe Wade’s As SHE Liked It takes a bold step post-#MeToo to wonder if the lessons of the past really have been learned and if the Hollywood of today – or indeed society at large – is that much changed from yesteryear. Chloe Wade Productions’ debut production tackles these systemic questions with playfulness and poignancy as it examines the attitudes and archetypes that have pervaded our culture for far too long.
Using elements of multimedia, comedy, drag and stark verbatim, the format reveals itself as a form of Brechtian cabaret, dipping in and around any number of thorny issues. Front and centre are those archetypes – the boxes into which women hoping to break into film and stay there had to fit – and so we meet Damsel in Distress, Leading Lady, Sex Symbol, Comedy Queen and Girl Next Door as they battle the overt misogyny of an industry, and society, who could care less about their treatment of women.
Through snippets of scenes, we get the smallest of tastes of what it must have been like. The mental health challenges, the diet pill abuse, the rampant sexism and sexual abuse, the fear and silence of having to tolerate it all. Through a modern lens, the moralising Hays Code seems laughable but in the current climate across the pond, you could argue it really is only a few more misguided Supreme Court decisions away. Moments that toy with male members of the audience lighten the tone somewhat.
Post-interval though, there is a more distinct coalescing of the material, around the story of dancer Patricia Douglas, assaulted first at an MGM party in 1937 and then by the Hollywood establishment that covered it up. Director Tilly Vosburgh rightly chills the tone and pares back the theatricality to allow the necessary starkness of focus. There’s still some dark humour but now the laughter catches in the throat as horror sets in too (that Shirley Temple section…). An ambitious project and one that comes off.