Just like mushrooms, women’s voices, sex workers’ voices, we are told are going to break through into the light.
This play is not about sex and nor is it really about sex work, but the social conditions and political times in which some people find themselves in, told through the voices of sex workers themselves.
‘’Changing the world one play at a time’’
Intent on ‘’changing the world one play at a time’’, Mycelial is the latest production from the renowned feminist and multi-award winning North East theatre company, Open Clasp.
Emerging out of the pandemic against a background of lockdowns, austerity and social injustice, Mycelial gives us the stories of nine women at a snapshot in time of political and social history in the UK, USA, New Zealand and Ireland.
The voices were strong. Some said fierce.
Referencing changes in legislation, ‘Rocket Girl’ tells us that de-criminalising the worker and situating sex work on a continuum of male violence against women, criminalising the consumer, only makes the work less safe by women being taken further away into darker corners for business and less customers meaning less money to be made. The real issues, she argues so well, are poverty and social conditions.
The real voice of a real woman
“Every word is the real word of a real woman” one of my companions wagged her finger in another friend’s face. “No script here. No lines someone’s made up. Every word you heard tonight was the real voice of a real woman”.
Mycelial is about voice and story, powerful and rooted. The women aren’t characters; the actors are stewards of stories, portraits of songs. These are real women, stories inter-woven and connected, individual and shared across cultures and continents.
’Rocket Girl’ with her tracksuit bottoms tucked into her socks explained, through analogy to her cat, war and greed and social injustice. Strikingly clever and articulate.
These were the voices of people who are usually unseen and unheard. These were voices to listen to. They had something to say and the lessons kept coming – history, geography, Greek mythology, astronomy, current affairs.
Voices were centre-stage but it was the very words themselves that smashed through the fourth wall, shattering any presumption and unconscious bias that may have stood in their path.
“Instead of killing myself I went to college’’
Daniella James’ portrayal of the intersex ’Poster and Shiny Things’ delivered through various screens on set, some of the most thought-provoking content. Education saved them, “Instead of killing myself I went to college’’. Not fitting in to sex or gender norms, they ask if maybe we need more boxes for people to fit into, to be accepted. My finger-wagging companion was infuriated “Their parents forced a gender on them, forced them to live a certain way, forced …” and the painful implications became clear through their story.
Mycelial teaches us that our personal and political struggles are connected, and that we too are consumers; consumers of societal norms, values, propaganda and spin. What we learn is that we need to listen with our hearts and have the courage to step out from the shadows and meet those voices in the light.