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Theatre Review Revelatory Radical Acts

SUSAN DARLINGTON experiences a unique celebration of women engaging in social and political change

Radical Acts
The Bradford Club

WOMEN from across the world have created social change throughout history, from suffragettes setting fire to pillar boxes to India's Gulabi Gang taking a stand against those who abuse women.

Common Wealth's Radical Acts celebrates such acts of civil disobedience, while reminding the audience that “radical” is a subjective word and that it’s within everyone’s power to take a stand.

The show is the culmination of three months of activism. Common Wealth has already staged a mass wedding, where 38 women married themselves, performed Food, Glorious Food on a train to protest against the benefit cap and initiated the #peaceophobia campaign to challenge Islamophobia.

Conceived and developed in partnership with local women and political activists, Radical Acts was staged at the end of last week to a mostly female audience in an exclusive Victorian gentleman’s club. The takeover of a traditional male space is a small act of rebellion in itself, as is the decision to turn it into an egalitarian dining area.

Seated around tables, the audience and actors share onion bhajis and names. The food breaks down barriers between strangers, but it’s also another act of rebellion — onions are used by protesters to protect against tear gas.

This blurring of communal warmth and activity is reflected in the paintings on the wall being removed to reveal written acts of rebellion and a giant tablecloth is pulled over the heads of the audience to create a tent, the intimacy inspiring personal revelations and song.

By the time the 11-strong cast perform a karaoke version of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, it feels like the most natural thing in the world to join in — the fact that none are natural vocalists or dancers only enhances the sense that this is a light-hearted girls’ night out.

Nonetheless, the fun underscores two important scenes which encourage the audience to reveal their own radical acts — from reading a feminist poem in public to leaving a violent partner — and what acts they want to make in the future (“get arrested!”).

This encourages individuals to consider their own worth and power to create change, both within themselves and on a community or global scale.

As the actors conclude by speaking their names, their deeds are elevated to the ranks of Rosa Parks and Ahed Tamimi. In so doing they also honour the radical daily acts performed by the audience.

 

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