Trafalgar Studios, London – until 9 June 2018
3Women is Katy Brand’s first play and I’ve a growing passion for new writing. If theatre is going to evolve (in terms of the faces we see on stage, as well as in the audience), the weight of that change sits with contemporary playwrights. Colour/gender blind casting of classic plays can only go so far. In a world where everything is so painfully serious, I also have a growing appetite for comedy.
This is a play about three generations of women in one family. The dynamics of female stories told from the perspectives of different generational experiences should always throw up interesting discussions.
In terms of the writing, I found a lot to love in 3Women. Brand writes with an authenticity that really allows the main comic moments to land. There were certain scenes where I was relating so much I found myself laughing despite myself. I think she very effectively captures the unique ability mothers and daughters have to get under each other’s skin and wound each other.
It is clear from the very beginning that Suzanne (Debbie Chazen) and her mother Eleanor (Anita Dobson) have a difficult relationship. The light barbs and reactions to them land quick and fast. When Suzanne’s daughter Laurie (Maisie Richardson-Sellars) arrives the dynamic quickly changes. She brings the freshness and freedom of youth, seemingly untouched by the fractious relationship between her mother and grandmother. The only thing Suzanne and Eleanor do seem to agree on is how wonderful Laurie is. Of course, this is just to the beginning, and across the course of a night locked away in a hotel room together, with the drink flowing, buried truths and accusations bubble to the surface.
In addition to plenty of laugh out loud moments, Katy Brand includes plenty of conflict and drama. It is all there in the writing, but the production doesn’t lean into the conflict as powerfully as it could. Anita Dobson is soft voiced and brittle as the disappointed Eleanor, but while this sense of containment works for most of the play, it prevents the main confrontation scene with Suzanne from fully landing. Debbie Chazen’s Suzanne is likeable, warm and vulnerable, bringing an emotional heart to the play. She has clearly avoided conflict over the years, so in the moment when she finally gets an opportunity to roar, it would have been wonderful if she’d been given the space to really let loose. Instead it felt as if the production prioritised landing the comedic over the dramatic. These are two strong female actors who definitely have the range to rise up and nail those dramatic scenes, it is a shame they seemed to be reined in.
Maisie Richardson-Sellars is really rather glorious as Laurie. The voice of modern views and feminism, she gets to have a lot of fun. Through her we cover a lot of interesting gender and sexuality topics, although none of them in any great depth. They serve more as a contrast to the world that Eleanor lived in, and felt so limited by. Throughout the play, she has a wonderful anti-ladylike body language that sharply contrasts with Eleanor’s uncomfortable elegance and poise. Given Maisie Richardson-Sellars’ recent run of US based TV work, I’m hoping that this London stage adventure isn’t a one-off, it would be great to see much more of her. She joins Katy Brand (as a playwright) on my “talent to watch” list.
Overall, I had a lovely night at 3 Women. I got many therapeutic laughs from it and at 80 minutes straight through it kept me engaged. Katy Brand should be rightly proud of her first full length play, her comedy instincts have served her well and she clearly has a flair for drama which I wish this production had exploited more.
All in all, I’d definitely recommend you check it out for yourselves, and if you do I’d love to know what you think.