REVIEW: The Female Gaze & Other Stories (Cockpit Theatre) ★★★★

The Female Gaze & Other Stories (Cockpit Theatre)

This is the second scratch night in Rich Creative’s production of the ‘Girls on Fire’ season, with this serving of seven individual stories connected by a common theme of female physiology. This production calls into question several key questions surrounding the feminine identity, that of: the connectedness of the mind and body, the possibility of hosting multiple identities, and the link between physical appearance and achieving meaningfulness in life.

The show explodes into action with ‘It’, starting with a powerful dance piece that perpetuates a charge of emotion from the very start. We witness two women who appear to be the same person, but with one manifested as an eating disorder, and the turbulent relationship that inevitably exists between them. We watch as the disorder and the physical body battle to assert themselves as the dominant figure.

In the second, ‘Recovery’, we observe a similarly metaphorical piece whereby a young woman’s cancer is manifested as another being, attempting to take over her very self. Facing the decision of physically expelling a part of yourself that is ultimately harmful – a powerful piece that is hard-hitting and still affecting me 24 hours on.

‘Projection’ is more light-hearted, and presents a future scenario whereby a more attractive, ‘ideal’ projection of oneself can be bought and worn like a mask. Very interesting concept, and great comedic writing, though I would have liked the narrative to explore the argument for vanity a little more thoroughly.

‘Girls Eat’ was very abstract indeed, and certainly leaves you thinking about the extent to which pressure is placed on the female body to have a ‘healthy’ relationship with food, but how it is equally forced to serve an unhealthy addiction to voyeurism at the time time.

After a brief interval we return to ‘I’m Parma’, a monologue focusing on the topic of anorexia and the importance of not letting an illness or disorder engulf your entire identity. This was a surprisingly empowering and inspiring piece, despite its very heavy subject – I’d like to see this developed into a standalone piece, potentially to help those struggling with an eating disorder and their identity.

Penultimately we had ‘Body Like Mine’, a piece of work focusing on one of the significant issues that people of colour face; discussing stereotyoes, prejudice and how to truly find pride in one’s identity.

Lastly, we had ‘Chitta Vritti’, and this was perhaps one of the most revealing, due to the fact that it was so overwhelmingly relatable. This piece encapsulates the everyday struggle for mental wellness that a person living in the 21st century faces: constant white noise of commitments, information, social demands and movement.

Volume 2 has provided a very well-balanced mix of work: several pieces were built on metaphor and allusions, allowing the audience to take from it what they needed to in order to connect, but others were very explicit in content and delivery, and this served their subject matter well. Rich Creative boasts a variety of excellent actors, writers and directors; they have accumulated some serious talent in their ranks.

The curators of Rich Collective, Annabelle Rich and Emily Warren, have succeeded once again in delivering on the vastness and depth of content of their chosen theme; it is also a proud moment for the company as all pieces featured were by female writers. I was impressed by the novelty of Volume 1, but hoped that this second production would show an even greater level of maturity with the handling of the subject content; I was pleased to find that this has indeed happened. ‘Written on the Body’ feels even more raw, more personal somehow as a production. I walked away feeling enlightened, disturbed, inspired and haunted.

When is Volume 3 happening?

Reviewed by Laura Evans