BWW Review: COLLECTIVE RAGE, Southwark Playhouse
Collective Rage at the Southwark Playhouse is a provocative and surprising play about the female experience. This "Play in 5 Betties" follows five women, all named Betty, as they express their sexuality and search for their purpose. This UK premiere boasts a talented cast that distracts from the play's sometimes heavy-handed edginess.
Jen Silverman's work, presented by antic | face and Nik Holttum Productions, is set in New York City and deals with dinner parties, failed relationships and the "thea-tah". However, at its heart, it is a play about queerness, being a woman, and finding your voice. Charlie Parham's production is well suited to Southwark's intimate black box setting.
Sara Steward portrays Betty 1, a rich white woman who has little to do in life other than spend her money, be annoyed by her husband and throw dinner parties - to great comedic effect. Meanwhile, Johnnie Fiori's Betty 4 is a down-to-earth woman who struggles with feelings for her best friend. Both women manage to make their characters more than the caricatures they easily could be.
Beatriz Romilly's Betty 3 is an ambitious woman who hopes to achieve fame through the "thea-tah". There's a knowing irony in her playing a character who botches Shakespeare after her recent run as Beatrice in the Globe's production of Much Ado About Nothing, and she brings a charming charisma to the role.
Betty 5 is a genderqueer gym owner played by Genesis Lynea. Her movement, both dance and boxing, is impressively fluid and she brings a gravity to the role that's pleasantly unexpected.
But it's Lucy McCormick as Betty 2 whose performance stands out the most. Her repressed and self-conscious young woman has the strongest character arc in the whole show, and her breakdown near the end is truly impressive and chillingly believable.
The stark two-level set, designed by Anna Reid, is filled with props that all end up used by the end of the 90-minute play. The second level is rarely used for the action of the play, but creatively functions as more of an exposed dressing room. I enjoyed Hollie Buhagiar's sound effects, though the overhead narration of scene changes feels a bit repetitive by the end.
The show is not for the faint of heart, but while it has an impressively diverse cast of characters, its edginess sometimes felt a bit forced, particularly its overuse of a certain 'taboo' word.
However, it is quite funny and supplies something a bit different that will leave you thinking.
Photo Credit: Jack Sain