Unneeded Baggage

Sat 4th – Mon 6th August 2012

reviews

Julia Chapman

at 07:40 on 6th Aug 2012

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The very word feminism can scare someone off at first mention. The three-strong cast in 'Unneeded Baggage' acknowledged this and explored some of the reasons behind it in an unexpectedly interesting storytelling session-cum-history lesson. The prospect may sound dreadful (perhaps we are conditioned to abhor the concept), but the talented performers and their ability to shape a good story made the show informative and interesting.

Drawing parallels between modern-day women and their counterparts in Greek mythology, the three girls described the perceived inadequacies of their peers and likened them to a competition between Athena, Hera and Aphrodite as to which goddess was most beautiful. The examination of perceptions of beauty brought fresh life to a familiar issue. Each girl delved into a critical tirade against their own aesthetic quirks, such as having thin hair, just one dimple and the dreaded idea of spots, and the fragmented manner of storytelling helped to emphasise how ridiculous such criticisms were.

The trio continued to tackle questions about reconciling principles of feminism with loving trashy women’s magazines, appreciating having one’s bags carried by a man and enjoying validation through sex. Shedding light on the dilemmas of the modern feminist allowed for the audience to go beyond the clichéd notion of suffragettes and bra-burners.

It was evident that an enormous amount of research went into the show. Potential loss of the right to abortion, slutwalks and Disney princesses were all mentioned as examples of setbacks to feminism. All three performers were good storytellers, enticing us in to their own tales of femininity whilst providing us with a historical backdrop as a comparison. Tilda O’Grady was particularly charismatic, and her winning characterisation enabled the audience to be drawn into each of her stories.

The greatest strength of the piece was how the performers moved from story to story, from fact to fact, weaving narrative with a lesson in history. On occasion, this was less than seamless, but at its most effective the method was an effective way of making feminism more appealing.

Dramatically, 'Unneeded Baggage' was slightly unpolished, but in a better venue and with more technical support the show and its three performers could easily reach their full potential. The scattered props gave the performance a disorganised feeling and it was difficult to escape the feeling that a rehearsal was being witnessed rather than a finished product, but overall there was much to be applauded in 'Unneeded Baggage'.

Unflinchingly honest in both personal detail and in frank sexual descriptions, the show was lucidly written. The casual conversation style ensured that they were neither patronising nor scary. Anyone interested in feminism should see this and enjoy themselves, and anyone not interested in feminism should see this and educate themselves.

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Oliver Arnoldi

at 08:16 on 6th Aug 2012

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Walking into venue 203 (on the food court floor of Princes Mall) is surprising. Its interior, the remains of an old shop, provides a somewhat disconcerting backdrop for Snickleway Theatre Company’s ‘Unneeded Baggage’, an interesting three-woman part fictional, part anecdotal exploration of what it means to be a woman in the modern day. It is a show that intentionally mixes material from the classical world with stories from the ladies’ personal lives, turning the hour-long fem-fest into a platform for truly thinking about how the ideals of femininity have altered over the last two thousand years.

The show begins as it means to go on, with the three women dressed as ladies of the Ancient World in a line, each stepping forward as they introduce one another, and most importantly each other’s foibles, with a mix of buzz words and phrases, “…I have a mortal affliction of one dimple…I’m a great spot-popper.” The style of delivery is as odd as it is stimulating as the show, among other features, proceeds to flit from Eleanor’s deconstruction of a list of her old boyfriends, identifying why none of them would ever be a “Prince Charming”, to a second Eleanor opening up a celebrity gossip magazine to the sight of multiple stickers falling to the ground, each with a label that characterises why she hates them. ‘Sex advice’ reads one, with ‘child celebs’ and ‘celeb idolising’ swiftly following, each getting her more and more agitated.

The show is strongest when it runs factual commentaries like these, and unfortunately falls slightly flat when it turns to dramatic retellings of stories from Ancient Greece to depict the ladies’ anecdotes, at times feeling like you are watching an A-Level drama exercise. It is a thought-provoking piece, but needs a little more polish to warrant a higher rating.

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