A vibrant exploration of the struggles of womanhood
This production restores the feminine to divine status in its joyful and colourful casting off of the chains of societal pressures and patriarchy that still affects many female-identifying people today. Following the journeys and experiences of four women, fruit(ful) is an artistic rendition of how women can overcome these struggles, or at least begin to grapple with them.
Director Grace Beckett‘s vision combined with the writing of the performers themselves results in a dreamy delving into the depths of the feminine psyche. Swinging between the abstract realms of the now-abandoned Garden of Eden and the very real situations in which many women find themselves trapped, the play encapsulates the search for a stable identity not based on men’s ideas or the church’s oppressive ideals.
The play’s atmosphere was created by a lovingly-crafted set, consisting of flowers, tapestries, garlands and, of course, lots of fruit. One of my favourite moments of the play was the end when the four sat down for a decadent picnic, all biting into their fruit in a moment of reclaiming power. This, accompanied by expressionistic music and dance acts, added to the dreamy and allegorical nature of the play. The dances, although in some individual moments a bit forced, were overall poignant expressions of the communal love of womanhood.
Indeed, this idea of ‘community’ as being central to womanhood was my main takeaway from the play. At each and every monologue, there was always support from the other women in the play, even if they were ‘witches’ or ‘models’: no matter what the situation, this loving community of women came to be depended upon. This is also thanks to the clear chemistry and support between the cast members, whose intimacy and friendship perfused the play with a clear passion for telling their stories.
The skilled multi-rolling of the characters also added to this effect of universal experience between all women; the one that comes most vividly to mind is Zainab Athumani‘s sly portrayal of the devil as the snake from Eden, which then shifts into an extremely emotional thought-piece considering the pros and cons of keeping an unexpected pregnancy. Moments of catharsis were also expertly portrayed especially by Lucy Carter and Lara Ibrahim, as well as the seemingly ever-present Sarah Walton-Smith, who goes from pushy teenage boy to angelic divine feminine spirit.
My only critique would be that at times the writing perhaps could have done with a bit more innovation; while the concept of analysing the women fallen from Eden is an intriguing one, I felt that at parts the metaphor and shifts between modes of storytelling were a bit too abstract to grasp fully.
Additionally, I think the problems of womanhood explored were a bit too surface-level. While things like unexpected pregnancies and sexual harassment are important topics to talk about, I felt that these stories didn’t really offer any new insights into these issues, whilst also not really touching on more marginalised groups of women that I think could’ve really made this play shine. The way in which these topics were discussed was also frequently quite on the nose, such as frequent explicit referrals to the patriarchy and an almost hand-holding way of leading us through the tales rather than letting the tales speak for themselves.
Nevertheless, this play was successful in that it was, at least for me, as a female-aligned person, something I could definitely relate to and find comfort in. Overall it was especially a very visually beautiful production and a highly enjoyable one at that; I would simply desire some more expansion on topics that I think could’ve been explored in a less predictable and more exciting way.
It is also commendable to note that at the end of the play the cast raised an appeal for donations to charities dealing with the struggles that many women globally face, and I think this aligns with the highly feminist and powerful aim of the play, which was to celebrate the wide female support network and raise awareness of issues that are so often taboo in public spaces.
fruit(ful) is showing on the 29th of November – 3rd of December at 9:30 pm at the Corpus Playroom. Book your tickets here.
Feature image credit: Claudia Vogt