Starting Out is a showcase of five new short plays by women, for women. They tell of the struggles faced in the austerity age, and women are sidelined in work as a result of the changed economic landscape since the 2008 financial crash.
Charlene James’ Standing Tall explores the exploitation of cheap labour for apprentices, and the perils of university debt. Jalleh Alizadeh put in a strong performance here, exposing the conflict between wanting to work harder, but stuck in an unsupportive environment which prohibited her from thriving.
Rosalyn Norford appeared in Manjeet Mann’s Whispers which saw her character struggling with low self-esteem amidst the difficulties of transferring the skills learnt from a degree into employability. Of the five, this play felt the most insincere and detached from its subject content.
The 3rd AD by Lorna Laidlaw was most popular with the audience, leaving the audience in stiches as Luanda Holness told of her character’s progression from runner to third assistant director. There was a difficulty in empathising with this play since its humour was its strongest element, but Holness’ performance was strong.
(sorry) by Susie Sillett was the strongest of the five plays, with the exploitation of labour it’s prevalent theme. Phoebe Brown’s understated, awkward but quirky performance had a controlled command of the space, telling her story with the honesty it deserved.
In contrast, The Broken Promise by Janice Connolly relied heavily on metaphor for its critique of an examination system which failed to provide any real world benefits. Whilst the technical elements occasionally took precedence over the emotion – as they did in each of these plays – and the direction, on occasion felt cliché, Katerina Demetraki brought a physical and energetic close to proceedings, with the definitive ‘Fuck ‘em’ which roundly summed up the evening. These were the stories of five women who suffered as a result of something they had no control over, and now had to make a new way for themselves amongst constant struggle.
- Writers: Janice Connolly, Charlene James, Lorna Laidlaw, Manjeet Mann and Susie Sillett
- Director: Caroline Wilkes
- Cast includes: Jalleh Alizadeh, Rosalyn Norford, Luanda Holness, Phoebe Brown, Katerina Demetraki
- Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham
- Review by Harry Tennison
- 12 October 2016