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The Trails and Passions of Unfamous Women | Brixton House

As part of London International Festival of Theatre 2024 (LIFT), The Trails and Passions of Unfamous Women, which is directed by Janaina Leite and Lara Duarte in collaboration with Clean Break, is brought to Brixton House. Clean Break are a theatre company with the mission of changing lives and minds through theatre, producing ground-breaking plays with women’s voices at the heart of its work. 

To start, we enter a room set up promenade style that holds four Goddesses, a court jester, and a stack of chairs in the centre of the room. As you wander around, you’re invited to interact with the Goddesses and talk to the court jester before they ask you to make your way to the Goddess closest to you. Two of the Goddesses in opposite corners then perform a short monologue, and once they are done, you turn and listen to the Goddess next to them. Unfortunately, this means that you only hear from two of the four Goddesses, but more so with two monologues happening at the same time, it can be difficult to fully immerse yourself in the performance. While an interesting concept, the space is, in reality, too small for the concept to work well. There is also very little introduction to the play or the Goddesses before their monologues start, which makes their speeches slightly less impactful with no real ‘point’ being explained. 

This act finishes in a very jarring way, with a female voice over explaining how a court room is set out, while the five actors dismantle the stack of chairs in the centre of the room and begin transforming the room into that of a court, while staff quietly usher the audience to sit down. During this act, a mock jury is selected from the audience and costumes are changed ever so slightly to reflect those of a judge and lawyers. This act is where a real light is shone on the justice system, however it more so explains to the audience what we already know as opposed to creating new questions and thoughts.

The way that ideas and notions are mentioned and explained gives you the impression that they may be explored, but instead they’re left to fall flat, with questions and points left unanswered and unexplored. For instance, pointing out that while doctors and professors no longer wear their ‘uniform’, lawyers and judges still wear their robes and wigs. Or questioning how random a jury is, pointing out that you must be on the electoral roll for instance. Both interesting and potentially stimulating points to open a discussion but are instead left hanging in the air. 

The third and final act was, in some ways, the most difficult to follow. The room falls into almost complete darkness, smoke machines are switched on and used to an almost uncomfortable degree, and the actresses lounge on chairs in plain night clothes. They spend the remaining 15 minutes of the play, ‘painting with words’ where they ponder justice, passion, and the sort of women they would like to be or want to see in the world. 

In its wanting to delve deep, the play almost fizzles out, ending with no clear point or solution for the audience to take away, partly due to how disjointed and jarring the play feels as a whole, with three very clear ‘acts’ that do not feed into each other. At its core, there are questions and notions which would be interesting to explore, but some more direction and perhaps simplification is needed to allow the audience to engage fully.

However, the actresses (Sarah-Jane Dent, Athena Marie, Kim Teresa (KT) Marsh, Yvonne Wickham and Dominque Lavine Wood Whyte) bring a raw vulnerability throughout the entire play which no doubt is what really brings the audience in, and creates the glimmers of intimacy during the different acts. This is especially noted during the second act where we are told what seem to be true stories of some of the cast, which are easily the most authentic and moving parts of the play. The rawness and vulnerability shown in these sections, were potentially the most captivating and engaging moments. While the play is an interesting concept, we need more of these raw moments and to have questions explored more openly for it to feel like a well-rounded, well produced piece of theatre that leaves a real impact with its audience. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3*)

Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Ellie Kurttz


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