Ellie Kendrick’s hour-long debut play celebrates female empowerment with the aid of astrophysics, Greek myth, music and dance. It is odd, original, inventively staged by Helen Goalen and Abbi Greenland from RashDash, and vigorously performed by its six-strong cast. But in its fury, it leaves little room for doubt, argument or internal challenge.
In physics, matter falling into a black hole may collapse to a point of infinite density or re-explode to appear as a white hole in another universe. Kendrick applies that idea to women’s history. First we see a number of women, seeking to articulate their ideas, disappearing down a black hole. When they re-emerge, they are vengeful, angry but united in their quest for power and their resentment at centuries of oppression.
They sing, chant, sprout black wings, retell the stories of Pandora and Medusa and, in one particularly effective passage questioning the male gaze, remind us that elementary particles don’t like being watched.
The Theatre Upstairs stage is constantly alive with movement, and Katharine Williams’s lighting is dazzling. The six actors – Ronke Adekoluejo, Ebony Bones, Alison Halstead, Rubyyy Jones, Cassie Layton, Eva Magyar – are highly individual while expressing a choric rage. But I still found myself puzzled by Kendrick’s purpose. Is she writing a rallying cry for women, or is she suggesting that they need to go beyond aggro, discard inherited power structures and reinvent themselves? If it’s the latter, I wish she had pursued the idea with more rigour. What we get is an impressive Bacchic ritual. What I craved was some more concrete notion as to how women, in practice, are to revolutionise and reshape the future.