Collective Rage: A Play in Five Betties review – wickedly funny

Southwark Playhouse, London
Five New Yorkers, all named Betty, are magically transformed in this swaggering production of Jen Silverman’s play

Jen Silverman’s often raucously funny piece is about five New York women – all called Betty, all from very different backgrounds – who, in coming together to create a piece of devised “thea-tah”, jettison the roles in which they have long been cast.

Betty 1 (Sara Stewart) is an Upper East Side matron who rages against her husband; Betty 2 (Lucy McCormick) is a lonely young woman in a sexless marriage; Betty 3 (Beatriz Romilly) is a Latina nobody in a dead-end job who wants to be a somebody; Betty 4 (Johnnie Fiori) is a lesbian who just wants to fix her truck; and Betty 5 (Genesis Lynea) is genderqueer, recently released from jail and the owner of a boxing gym.

Rage and frustration … Sara Stewart as Betty 1 and Lucy McCormick as Betty 2. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

Bring them together to rehearse a new version of Pyramus and Thisbe, the play within a play in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and suddenly all sorts of magical transformations take place. None more entertaining than Betty 2’s discovery of her vagina, which she deems more fascinating than a David Attenborough wildlife documentary.

Silverman makes a potent metaphor out of walls – how they keep people out and trap those inside, and how sometimes they have to be torn down. The play can sometimes feel too obviously constructed, but Silverman sidesteps earnestness with cackles of wild laughter. Charlie Parham’s production skedaddles across the stage with real swagger and intent, and the quintet of Betties deliver wickedly enjoyable performances.

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