Gaze: do we still need theatre about women’s rights?

Gaze shows us the two worlds of two women, Alice Guy Blaché and Rose, spanning from the 1890s until now. We see the rise and fall of Alice’s career as the first female film maker, facing the challenges of betrayal and misogyny. Cut between this story we see our other protagonist, Rose, a modern day film student who is struggling with mental health issues and trying to find out who she really is and wants to be. She also has to deal with misogyny and racism which are subtly disguised as praise for her academic ability, whilst actually demeaning her talent as a film maker.

The two women are divided by time but united through the common battles that women face in the past and today, whether through sexism, racism or mental health. We see the two fight against all of these barriers to keep control of their lives and strive for what they both want to achieve; independence, respect and self-actualisation. The piece comes together with a realised unification speech that combines both worlds into one for the audience. And finally some clarity and realisation is given to both characters as they can move towards self-realisation.

Kitty Randle as Alice provides a strong, antagonistic, never-willing-to-give-in portrayal of this real-life female film maker, and the challenges she undertook in the world that was against her. She brings a strong, powerful performance whilst showing that damage has been done to this character, while holding onto hope for the future.

Esme Sears as Rose gives a vulnerability to the character that we expect to see, but enshrouded with a certain strength. We see Alex Tahnée and Christina Berriman Dawson effortlessly move through each role they play. These two actors hold the audience in the palm of their hands, fixated on the strength and flexibility of their multi-roling performances.

We enter the world of the play through a soundscape of what seems to be a construction site, to be revealed as a typewriter. This helps the audience to connect with the story despite the changing time periods and location.

Director, Tilly Branson’s clever use of camera work and multimedia projection, along with a flexible and transformative use of set, held my interest. We’re left with a question:

“Is it still topical to see a story of two women battered and beaten down by misogyny in their lives and work?”

The answer is “yes, of course!”, the show screams at us. Within the last hundred or so years we have come so far in female suffrage, but nowhere near far enough, and women are still facing the same struggles that their ancestors suffered before.

This story is important to tell, the themes in it are vital and relevant to society today. We as an audience must stay aware of this and act to combat it. Now, however, it is just as important to tell this story in new and entertaining ways to get the audience’s attention. It is not enough to portray the issues of women on stage. It is how you get an audience to connect with the story.

Gaze has great potential to explore its themes in greater detail. Whilst the delivery of the story was somewhat underwhelming, as the two main characters were isolated and cold, making them difficult to connect with, the multi-roling characters captivated the audience with comedy and brutality.

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