This semester’s Open Slot presented Matt Grinter’s Orca, the winner of the 2016 Papatango New Writing Prize, directed by Max Chase.
The play is a painful text about a young woman (Ellen Wilson) trying to make the people in the village see that she has been sexually assaulted by the village’s leader. But instead of being deemed brave for having spoken up, she is casted aside by everyone, including her father and her sister. Putting this text on stage in 2018, in the wake of #MeToo, is a commendable move.
Choosing Stereo to stage Orca was a great decision. The worn-out walls of venue added to the set-design, creating an atmosphere of a poor bigoted village where people cannot see what is right in front of them. Moreover, the set design continued in the fashion of Harry Penrhyn Jones’s simple but eye-catching poster, keeping the shade of blue present throughout. Interestingly, the set-design first created a sense of a welcoming environment, only to become repulsive once the audience understands characters’ interpersonal relationships. In that way, the set design was a great introduction to theme of secrets hidden out in the open.
STAG production, including Ellen Wilson, Mairi Redman, Bryan Jones did not fully manage to bring the emotions on stage. While their overall performance was solid and all of the technical aspects were there – tears, raised voices, whispers, etc. – they did not work beyond the narrative level of the story, telling the audience that the characters were upset or hurt. The only character whose emotions reached me as more than descriptive was Gretchen, the second rape-victim, played by Kimberley Macnaughton. Although her role was smaller compared to the main three, her stage presence was by far the biggest and her pain more uncomfortable than any other depicted.
All in all, the play was a difficult but interesting watch that definitely gave rise to some important questions. However, if wanting to engage with the problem of patriarchy and the violent treatment of women, why not give women a voice by having a female playwright or a female director, if not both?