Friday, 24 October 2008

MINE @ The Hampstead Theatre, London

Shared Experience Presents
MINE @ The Hampstead Theatre
Written and Directed by Polly Teale

Designed by Angela Simpson
Music and Sound by Peter Salem
Company Movement by Liz Ranken
Lighting by Colin Grenfell
Video and Projection Design by Thomas Gray for The Gray Circle
Sound Design by Alex Caplen
Dramaturg Nancy Meckler
Production Manager Alison Ritchie
Company Stage Manager Chrissie Chandler

With: Marion Bailey, Clare Lawrence Moody, Allistair Petrie, Lorraine Stanley, Katy Stephens, Sophie Stone

The two central characters of Polly Teale's new play, Mine, are written simply as "Man" and "Woman." It is this kind of arsty-fartsy lack of specificity that left my teeth coated in saccharine and my head in my hands when leaving this performance. Shared Experience, the producing company of Mine advertises itself as a ensemble and movement based company. Unfortunately, their desire to include this work in the current piece undermined any kind of style the play would have had on its own. Infused with confusing and awkwardly executed dream-like movement sequences, I felt like I had been strapped down in the rehearsal room and forced to watch all of the homework the actors should have done to get to their final character. Surely we would not sit and watch an actor scoring their script? It felt just as tedious and embarassing to watch them perform silly tableaux and vignettes that should have been a means to an end and certainly never the final product.

Despite it's female writer/director, Mine feels sexist and misogynistic, in addition to painfully classist. The concept of the career woman who gave up the chance for a child to be a success was covered by Caryl Churchill (in an infinitely more creative and exciting way) in Top Girls back in 1982. Why do I care again? Why do I want to see the banshee wife who longs for a child and then tries to give it away when she has one while her saintly husband stands by? Why, oh why, is the child's birth mother a prostitute who dresses in size too small sweats with her thong pull up to her waist to be sure it shows over the top of her pants? Naturally, she has an expectedly lower-class accent than the rest of the cast to epmhasize her status. I was not only bored watching the cast go through these motions, I was embarrassed.

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