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PART love story, part existential examination of woman and desire, Miriam Battye’s play has Lou (Rebekah Murrell) and Tosh (Sex Education’s Tanya Reynolds, making her stage debut) as friends and housemates.
Debating love and sex, they attempt to interrogate the narratives that control female sexuality.
How do women unpick the stories they’ve been told about what they’re supposed to want? How to resist dichotomies like “frigid” and “whore,” they ask, as they scoff at ex-housemate Fran (given an excellent, understated performance by Letty Thomas), who’s in love and getting married.
But, vitally, they ask what possibilities open up when women stop doing what they’ve been told.
While Lou and Tosh are tight, they’re also different. Lou is on to man No 23, whom she questions fiercely and wants physically. Murrell offers a moving portrayal of Lou, out to break the narratives she’s contained by, even if it hurts her to do so.
If Lou is “practical,” then Tosh is “theoretical.” She’s not out there dating men, rather she’s dreaming about them exploding into confetti or growing flowers from the stumps of their freshly severed limbs.
Questions about the relative values of friendship are central: “I am worth more because I receive less from you and yet I continue to contribute,” Reynolds’s hypnotic Tosh forcefully and convincingly argues.
Each of the play's 22 scenes are a little blast of invention and intelligence. Amid the banter about Little Mix, Battye effectively brings together intense emotional conversation and existential musings, while Lucy Morrison’s well-paced production doesn’t shy away from showing us how hard it is to refuse those narratives controling women, as when Lou bites her laptop screen in frustration and Tosh flops face down on the floor.
While there’s a beauty to the ending, there’s something vitally important about showing us the work that it takes to rethink and remake ourselves outside what we’ve been taught to value and inhabit.
As Battye’s play progresses, that work becomes more and more heroic.
Runs until February 22, box office: royalcourttheatre.com
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