Penelope Skinner’s Linda is a tremendously strong piece of new writing, and a bold comment about how sexist our society still is. The protagonist’s words say it all: “Old for a woman means worthless. Invisible. Of course we’re terrified. You tell us we peak at sixteen and it’s downhill all the way from there. Well I haven’t worked this hard to be pushed aside at the last hurdle. I refuse to be silenced. I will not disappear.”
Linda has dedicated her life to Swan Beauty Corporation, while at the same time she has been trying to become an inspiring mother and a role-model for her two daughters. And she has been doing really well; she has been winning awards, being extremely successful… until the moment comes when things start falling apart in her life.
The play begins with Linda, now 55, starting – for the first time perhaps in many years – to lose control of her life, of her relationships, and her career. Skinner has managed to create a harrowing portrait of this woman who has been too strong for too long, and when things begin to crack at work and at home everything seems to slip away from her. Linda has to balance the role of the mother with that of a career-woman, with that of a successful businesswoman and that of a loving wife. But what happens when you think you have let down everyone you really cared for? The play raises some very important questions not only about women’s position in society, but also about dysfunction within the family. It stands as an incredibly moving and true depiction of what it means to be a woman – and especially a middle-aged woman – in today’s society.
What Noma Dumezweni, in the role of Linda, manages to do here is truly admirable. After Kim Cattrall pulled out, Dumezweni stepped in to undertake a huge challenge and play the title role only eleven days ago. In this very short amount of time, both Dumezweni and the rest of the company have achieved a tremendous feat; not only doing justice to Skinner’s challenging text, but giving us one of the best performances of the year.
Director Michael Longhurst has created a very well-coordinated production, which is gripping, moving, and funny at the same time. Es Devlin’s impressive set works perfectly with both video and light design, by Luke Halls and Lee Curran respectively, creating a depiction of Linda’s perfect office and home – which, ironically, though are floating on water and when the hurricane comes nothing will be the same again.
Linda is one of those plays that disturb you, touch you, and stick with you. It is a new play that has come to stay, and rightly deserves to do so.