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Theatre Review Universal concerns

KATHERINE M GRAHAM sees a unique collision of cosmology and sexual politics at the Royal Court

Royal Court Theatre, London

WHAT happens when you take a contemporary moment of rage and render it as old as the universe?

The answer is somewhere in Ellie Kendrick’s Hole. Directed by Helen Goalen and Abbi Greenland, the play is an extraordinary explosion of political and poetic rage. Blending contemporary feminist politics and science, it uses music, movement, poetry, myth and confrontation to explore a politics of oppression and violence.

The impetus here is the same as that behind the #metoo movement — talking about how women occupy space, how they might be controlled, how they might be violated. But in Kendrick’s extraordinary first play, Ronkẹ Adekoluejo, Alison Halstead, Rubyyy Jones, Cassie Layton, Eva Magyar and musician Ebony Bones speak, sing, dance and scientifically theorise their way through these issues.

As they do so, the production harnesses a wonderful and vital anger around consent, the controlling power of the male gaze and questions of self-definition or expression. But what Kendrick does so extraordinarily is to switch registers so that conversations about being contained and restricted become conversations about density and compression.

Such a reframing forces a reconsideration. This more abstract register is also one often denied to contemporary feminist argument and female playwrights and it’s impressive to see Kendrick employ it.

That said, the production and script are not always in control of the tension between the scientific and the political although, in a striking sequence, Layton dons a mirror-ball costume and reflects on what it means to be intently watched, both as a woman and as a sub-atomic particle. In that moment, performance, words and science blend seamlessly.

Hole is a powerful and complex call to arms. It rebuts a politics of oppression that is both tied to the #metoo moment and also works to aggressively force us to see that moment as part of gendered structure forged aeons ago.

Runs until January 12, box office



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