views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Lady Parts
Etcetera Theatre
13th August 2016


Publicity photograph for Lady Parts

Photography provided by the Camden Fringe

Sometimes, before a show even starts, you can tell it's going to be very, well, "out there". Guru Harmony (Rebecca Clarke), a foul-mouthed Weegie hippy is lying on the floor, rolling around and pointing at certain bits of her anatomy. If you thought the title Lady Parts might stand for anything enough than the obvious, you've booked tickets for the wrong show. As well spending time with the guru herself, we meet Feminista, a cruise line showgirl and Radio Rachael, a YouTube star and up-and-coming pop queen. All three characters are very loud, proud and clearly defined, linked by their feminist principles.

It's obvious that Clarke has spent considerable time writing and developing these three distinct characters and if we were watching them in isolation, we might not realise the same actress plays all three, which is a compliment to the diversity of her acting skills and vocal work. Director Ciaràn O'Driscoll struggles to control the different subplots and create one coherent show, with the action feeling very disjointed in places. Whilst there one overriding arc that brings them all together, it's easily missed and I almost think Lady Parts would work better merging Radio Rachael and Feminista into one character, the before and after, if you like. It would also save on the wig budget. The alternative would be to better develop the rescue mission, however I think this would still leave Radio Rachael on the outskirts of the big finish and out of all the three characters, she has the most untapped potential.

Feminism and environmentalism are both very powerful messages to try to get across in only 35 minutes, so one of those really needs to be thrown overboard to prioritise the reach of the other. The idea of young, wide-eyed Radio Rachael discovering feminism in the pursuit of fame and riches would pack more of a punch without the confusion of Guru Harmony's ramblings on Mother Earth. Furthermore, as fun as the guru is, she doesn't do anything to change the reputation for feminism for being the stuff of old-school hippies. Although I can see why Clarke would want to keep her on stage as much as she does, the feminist agenda she wants to convey would be better delivered by Radio Rachael, who is more relatable character.

The computer set design is impressive and doubles up as an onstage hideaway for Clarke to hurriedly change between the different costumes. Given this is a very short one-woman show and three characters all appear more than once, the lulls in action are handled well by O'Driscoll. Pleasingly, the tech all goes to plan too. This is an interactive show, which won't be to everyone's taste, however Clarke does an excellent job of winning over her audience, before abruptly drawing everything to a close.

Lady Parts is a interesting experience, which provides an immersive commentary on exploitation in the performing arts and finding your own female identity. (Yes, that goes for you too, gents. The guru has her eyes on you.) It's a bit rough around the edges, but nonetheless a fun piece with some strong acting.

Lady Parts opened on 10th August and runs until 14th August 2016 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)

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