Review: THE WRITER at Q Theatre

THE WRITER is gripping, fervid and powerful.

By: Sep. 04, 2022
Review: THE WRITER at Q Theatre
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THE WRITER is an emotionally rich, eloquent and engaging play that surprises. This is an adult play that addresses creativity, gender inequalities and power, particularly in the theatre setting: "You get to make the world and I get to live in it." As an audience, you are asked to consider your ethics, your values, your understanding of the creative spirit and the creative process. Above all else, THE WRITER is gripping, fervid and powerful.

The play's structure is episodic, multi-layered, and packed with nuances. We are observing, it seems, the creative process of writing and workshopping a play for production. Each of the scenes brings new perspectives and truths: " Writing is about truth", says the Writer later, "Theatre is sacred and should be used to heal people not get off on. Theatre shouldn't be pretence - it should be real and the actors should bring out the truth to the audience." This psychological and emotional truth is created superbly with outstanding performances by the experienced and accomplished cast: Sophie Henderson (the Writer), Stephen Lovatt (the Director), Matt Whelan (the Male Actor) and Ash Williams (the Young Woman).

Adeptly directed with an artistic and creative eye by Sophie Roberts, THE WRITER is provocative and thought-provoking. In the opening moments, the Young Woman moves from the audience to the stage and confronts the Male Actor. She is angry that the play's action is so unrealistic and sexualised: "silent women in hot pants."The conversation is realistic, natural and quick-paced. She wants "the world to change shape" through her writing. She will have a voice. "Writing is just speaking but with passion." We are quickly drawn into the argument that develops when the Young Woman reveals the connection they have had six years earlier - when the opportunity for her to work as a writer came enmeshed with sexual favours.

This is a play that addresses power - commercial and sexual. From episode two, the Q and A which appears to directly involve us, the audience, we see the clash between "self-expression and self-indulgence". The Writer argues that "artists have to feel safe in order to make art" and the Director says that "money fosters confidence, art is confidence."

We see how the Writer's creative process and artistic temperament, so vital to her joy and happiness, is constrained by the men in her life: the Director who wants commercial success above all else, the male partner who wants money (and sex) rather than her happiness and creative choice.

The Q and A, and later episodes, illustrate how the female writer gets painfully shut down by the men with the money: "letting producers distort your truth is like your unborn children b given plastic surgery". In particular, the motif of the baby crying is a dominant force in the play's construction. A baby is a creation, and a symbol of innocence, purity, new beginnings, inner potential, rebirth. When we hear the sounds of the baby's cries, we are asked to consider - and connect to - what the Writer is experiencing. What part of her "inner potential" is not being recognised? What part of her creative self is not being nurtured? We feel her pain.

Well-designed and executed sound (Paloma Schneiderman) and artistic lighting (Rachel Marlow) integrate well with the play's intent. The reality of the play process is supported with "working" stage elements - we can see the stage crew dressing the actors and providing props (including a real baby), clearing the scenes, and moving the set. The Director watches the action from downstage right - ensuring the Writer always feels his dominance.

THE WRITER is the Writer's story above all else. Sophie Henderson's truthful portrayal manages to capture the Writer's desire to have unburdened joy, to just be, as well as communicating the crushing challenges to her creative spirit.

This is a play for the artists and the creators, theatre-makers and theatre-goers. The play definitely connected with many in the audience. It's an authentic picture of many theatrical and political conversations today and definitely worth seeing.

On until 18 September at Q Theatre. Bookings through or the theatre.


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