For the last 200,000 years, modern day humans have lived together – steadily developing from small, tribal groups to a global, instantly accessible community. However, despite our advanced levels of connection and human interaction, we still fail to truly understand the difference between how men and women perceive the world. Might Never Happen, a bold new play from Doll’s Eye Theatre brings this matter to the fore, exploring the notion of street harassment of women by men . It’s a concept that we are all familiar with but that many struggle to identify or explain. Through a quick succession of realistic short scenarios, this play very cleverly outlines that it is a collective responsibility that we must all undertake to realign how each of the genders is viewed and valued. An insight into the everyday lives of arguably the most consistently marginalised group of people on the planet, this play states that it is no one’s choice but the individual, how they lead their life.
A woman sits awkwardly in a workplace disciplinary, having lashed out in frustration at a male colleague who tells her what personality to adopt. A woman soothes her baby daughter, resigned and deflated, encouraging her to accept that in the future men will talk down to her and that it is ‘just their way’. On a bus, a man sits next to a woman at the end of a night out and begins prying into her personal life despite her distinct lack of interest and enthusiasm to engage with him. A panel of women on a popular daytime talk show fight amongst themselves about wolf-whistling and catcalling, ultimately to be coerced by producers into encouraging the objectification of other women. Each of these snippets expertly hones our attention on the baffling but widely upheld notion that both men and women are brought up believing that the latter exist solely to serve, please and entertain while the former control, critique and humiliate.
Perhaps the most successful and appalling aspect of Might Never Happen is its believability. It effectively delivers its basic sociopolitical message with gentle subtlety and without condemning menfolk everywhere. The cast works beautifully as a unit, a solemn but driven machine of ideology churning with their combined efforts. They ridicule the idea of the preventative measures women can take in order to ‘minimise their chances’ of being raped, demonstrating a darkly comic 5-step guide to essentially refrain from ever leaving the house. While each of the performers lends their individual acting strengths to the show, Kirsty Osmon is particularly striking in her balanced portrayal of self doubt and fury. Her sharp gaze and low, even voice fit perfectly with the overall refusal of gender inequality. Danielle Nott and Catherine Deevy provide some bright comedy, shrewdly highlighting the blurry and often indeterminable line between jovial, universally enjoyed banter and aggressive abuse. Thankfully, this collection of experiences does not demonise men as a rule. It fairly explores how men are often unaware of their own social ineptitude, fumbling helplessly to form any kind of connection, and are simply following trends learnt from both other men and the media. Particularly stirring is the fact that each of the scenes portrayed, often taken from real experience, is representative of women living in the UK. Considered one of the most progressive and forward thinking countries in the world, we are shown that this level of misogyny is, alarmingly, still commonplace.
After this performance of Might Never Happen, a Q&A panel was held with the directors and researchers that worked to create the show as well as women working in journalism, politics and women’s rights. Throughout the session it becomes clear that there is a distinct lack of funding given to services and support for women who have been victims of street harassment. An adapted version of this play would work fantastically as a tour taken to schools across the country. One of the most powerful comments on modern day society I have ever seen, Might Never Happen should be viewed by men, women, young and old to stamp out the gross double standards of gender.
Reviewed by Alex Foott
Photo: Cindy Lin
Might Never Happen plays at the Kings Head Theatre until 16 May 2016