Old Red Lion Theatre, London – until 29 September 2018
Jess is pretty sure she’s a grown-up. She can make a granary loaf from scratch; she’s got a steady job (even if she’s forgotten to order the paper clips); hell, she’s even got an ISA. It might only have 50 quid in it but baby steps… She’s also booked in for her first smear test but when the results come up with something unexpected, she decides that she’s in a rut she wants to get out of.
Only problem is, everyone has a lot to say about that. Lydia Rynne’s solo play Hear Me Howl is about a woman’s right to choose. About if and when to become a mother, if and when to adhere to societal conventions, if and when it is ever right to get lost in the noise of a drum solo… And performed with uncompromising directness by Alice Pitt-Carter, it demands that you listen.
As Jess ricochets from friends to family members, all offering their own take on the news of her pregnancy, she finds solace in taking drum lessons and when the opportunity presents itself to go on tour with a post-punk band, it becomes clear that this choice is a definitive one for her. And if Rynne’s writing is clearly pro-choice, it works because it finds its power in the specificity here, rather than making declarative statements about all of womenkind.
Director Kay Michael has stripped back the Old Red Lion’s space so that there’s only a drum kit and Pitt-Carter and it is a strikingly bold choice. Jess’ story is intermittently embellished with crashes of cymbals and thumps of drums, a way of working through the intense emotions of fear and frustration through to hope and self-actualisation, and as she reclaims her voice, channeling her anger, Pitt-Carter makes sure we believe every single word.