How do we define womanhood today? It’s a question we’re faced with now more than ever in the mainstream media, with TV shows such as Munroe Bergdorf’s What Makes a Woman? and the controversial Genderquake demanding more airtime. Katy Brand’s fitting first play is a riot of inter-generational friction, exploring what it means to be a modern woman to three very different females.
The set-up is simple but effective – three women, from across three generations of the same family, assemble in a plush hotel suite on the eve of 40-year-old Suzanne’s wedding. Their wildly different expectations of modern life bring them head to head in a spirited evening of drunken confrontation.
Anita Dobson perfectly captures Suzanne’s sharp-tongued and well-turned-out mother, Eleanor, the victim of a society in which motherhood and ambition were mutually exclusive.
Debbie Chazen is a breath of fresh air as the spiritual Suzanne. She brings warmth and vulnerability to Suzanne’s fight to be ‘average’ and to marry an ‘anorak’ rather than a ‘leather jacket’.
Finally, Maisie Richardson-Sellers gives an assured performance as Laurie, Suzanne’s idealistic (albeit at times stereotypical) 18-year-old daughter, who envisions a future where gender is non-existent and childbearing is a myth of the past. Laurie’s views can risk coming across as fad-like and I would like to have seen them developed further. Despite this, Richardson-Sellers does well to play against the stereotype.
It would be hard not to recognise elements of every family in this tightly observed comedy. But the real testament to the play’s success is the audience’s reaction. I left the auditorium to the sound of women laughing, comparing stories and sparking up conversations with strangers. That’s an incredibly rare thing in my experience and a real accomplishment for a first play. I hope that Brand will write many more!
3Women is at the Trafalgar Studios until 9th June 2018.