REVIEW: Heroines (Theatre N16) ★★★

Heroines comes to Theatre N16 in Balham following a preview at Bromley Churchill Theatre. It’s a production from Emberfly Theatre, a collaborative company of emerging artists seeking to keep female stories front and centre.

Heroines is inspired by female characters from Shakespeare’s plays, and imagines them sharing a flat in the 21st century. All these strong, interesting women come from different plays; what would Shakespeare have made of putting them all on stage together and allowing them to interact with each other?

Lady Macbeth is pulling the strings here, watching on from the sidelines as older, wiser Emma played with a knowing, wry gaze by Meg Lake. Joanne Sealy as Ophelia struggles with her mental health; trying and failing to stay positive through her auditions, hoping for her big break while balancing many jobs to pay the bills. Kathryn Louise relishes the role of Juliet, seen here without her Romeo as a hard drinking, besotted young woman, craving approval from her friends for her date outfits and dodging coffee meetings with her mother. Rosalind (Nell Bradbury) is recently returned from her travels in the woods, far from social media, to become the glue that holds this disparate group of women together, calming the differences of opinion and providing the shoulder to cry on. Cordelia (Hannah Abbott) is imagined here as a primary school teacher, unwilling to stand up to her superior and risking her job. The sixth member of the group is Amy Fallon as Kate, loud, dramatic, opinionated and politically aware.

The play seemed to take a while to get going and at only an hour there seemed to be some missed opportunities for developing these characters and the relationships between them. The mix of Shakespearean and modern language was sometimes confusing and you really need to know something of these characters in the original plays for this to make sense. In their Shakespearean tales, four of these six women end up dead yet here there are plenty of laughs here as they navigate life in the twenty first century. As the lights come up at the end of the play, Lady Macbeth leaves us with the thought that there are heroines all around us if we only know where to look.

Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans