252AM (After Man)
Shady Dolls Theatre Company
There is still a long way to go before we achieve gender equality. It is a struggle that can be exhausting. In exasperation, some might wonder if life might be better if women did not have to engage with men at all.
The play 252AM (After Man) by Rebecca Pollock imagines a future where this has happened, men having been wiped out by a virus two hundred and fifty-two years earlier. The women unaffected by the virus continued to give birth to other women using the remaining stocks of sperm.
The action of the play takes place on a spaceship from Earth which has found a planet inhabited by biologically compatible men.
The captain of the ship (Rebecca Pollock) and Polly (Polly Henson) who are to head the mission to the planet are wakened from a sleep of many years to find there have been major changes to the society they have come from.
There is a disquieting edge to the sounds that accompany much of the show, an effect emphasised by the lighting.
Yet, initially, everything about the crew, who refer to themselves as the collective, seems reassuring.
It is claimed that, back on Earth, wars have been abolished, social conflict has ceased to exist and all social policies are decided democratically in referendum.
Gradually, they discover that a more disturbing set of changes has taken place.
History has been rewritten to blot out much of men’s contribution. Leading male figures in books have been changed into female figures. Sexual contact is not allowed. Communities have become ethnically pure.
When they realise the ship’s mission is not simply to find men to help rebalance Earth’s population, a row breaks out and they are forced to make a choice about what they should do.
Rebecca Pollock plays the captain as a strong figure confident about her authority and ready to enforce it.
The show raises important questions about the way formal structures of democracy in a society composed entirely of women may still come to harbour hierarchical and unjust practices.
Shady Dolls Theatre Company has created a thoughtful, watchable play that maintains its tension and mystery through most of its short sixty minutes playing time.
However, too much happens too quickly during the last few scenes. It makes some of the final plot developments less believable and gives us very little time to engage with the political arguments briefly taking place.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna