By Jen McGregor
There’s plenty of promise in this one-woman show from The Flanagan Collective, but it’s a pity to see them hamstrung by the technical constraints of the venue and by being a little too cautious with the material.
The subject of the play is Katherine Githa Sowerby, an early 20th century playwright whose gritty Northern dramas were unconventional and even shocking for a female writer of the era. Portrayed by writer and actor Hannah Davies, Githa has a warm, strong presence and a rich voice with exquisite diction, but it’s quite a cerebral performance. Her intellectual understanding of the character doesn’t entirely feed through to her emotions and physicality. She has immense potential, but there’s still a lot to be unlocked.
Perhaps it would also help if she set herself greater emotional challenges in her writing. She creates a clear, distinct voice for her subject, but our ability to stay interested and engaged with the character is tested by the fact that everything seems just a bit too easy. Githa wants to write children’s books to gain an income? She does. She writes a play? It gets produced with no apparent delay or difficulty. Even when she learns of an act of betrayal by her husband, there’s a brief moment of upset before equilibrium is restored – we don’t see the steps they take to restore it, but we have to assume that it was restored because there’s no sense of any lasting conflict or distrust. The events of Githa’s life are catalogued, but the play creates many more questions than it answers about how she felt about her moments of triumph and adversity.
The ideas behind the production are sound, but they could all be pushed further. Githa’s trunk is expediently used, becoming different objects to set different scenes, but the multifunctional trunk is an old Fringe chestnut and could have been used more creatively. There’s an arresting opening moment which could have been re-used as a motif. There’s a valiant attempt to create a soundscape, but it’s clear that more tech time would have helped.
If you’re looking for a show that’s already a finished work then this probably isn’t the one for you. However, if you’re looking for an interesting group of young artists using the Fringe to cut their teeth and test their material – arguably the actual purpose of this whole crazy month – then you’ll find much to whet your appetite here.