Arts Review: Berkoff’s Women

Dir. Josie Lawrence, Tron Theatre, 22nd February 2019

Berkoff’s Women is described as an exploration of Steven Berkoff’s writing for women, and stars Linda Marlowe, who worked closely with Berkoff for many years. The premise seems intriguing, exploring themes such as sensuality, revenge, pathos, loneliness, and humour, yet unfortunately the one-woman play was unable to live up to my expectations.

The setting and costumes were very minimal, which allowed the audience to focus on Berkoff’s writing, of which the play was ultimately a celebration. The way the monologues were structured, however, did not lend to this: they ran one after another, allowing little respite for the audience. At times, I was unsure whether a new monologue had begun, whether I was watching the story of a different woman, or not. I expected Marlowe to portray a variety of women, but the sameness of certain characters was highlighted in how they appeared altogether, and in such quick succession. Moreover, the excerpts were often too short and lacking the wider context of the plays. This led to confusion at times, and I felt it did not allow the audience, nor Marlowe herself, to fully utilise Berkoff’s writing. I found only a few memorable, such as Clytemnestra from Agamemnon, The Sphinx from Greek, and the mother in East, the former two if only because of my interest in Greek tragedy.

“A man wrote that,” Marlowe commented dryly after performing the Sphinx’s misandrist monologue from Greek, as if this view of female superiority is only acceptable, and championed, if written by a man. The play initially seemed to be a be a celebration of women, but instead it always returned to focus on men, and was a self-indulgent applaud of Berkoff, rather than the women themselves.

[Eleanor Fletcher – @eleanorlf_]

[Image credit: Neil Hanna]


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