Bloody Difficult Women
Wind of Change in association with Cahoots Threatre Company
Tom Walker's Bloody Difficult Women peers back into the almost forgotten history of 2016, when the incumbent Prime Minister, Theresa May (Jessica Turner), tried to push Article 50 through without consulting Parliament, and the resultant legal challenge brought by Gina Miller (Rita Estevanovich). The play depicts this as a schism bracketed between these two "Bloody Difficult Women" as they try to withstand the media scrutiny, machinations of the Daily Mail and the various attitudes of men who surround them.
It's curious that the seeming intent of this piece is to comment on the lives of these two women, on opposite sides of a legal, political, and in some ways socio-cultural divide. But this does get obfuscated by so much of the play being framed around various men involved with the situation, most notably, the inclusion of many scenes of Daily Mail Editor in Chief Paul Dacre (Andrew Woodall), who swears and curses through patriotic goggles, scornfully bleating about Brexit and the nerve of Miller for stymying the break from the EU.
It creates a strange effect, particularly as the scenes of the Millers are so self-serious in comparison with the almost comically villainous newsroom scenes and May and Hugh Rosen's (Graham Seed) cabinet-room bickering that at times the play feels oddly like a mash-up of scenes from Drop the Dead Donkey, House of Cards, and Yes, Prime Minister. Luckily, it also manages to remain as consistently compelling and entertaining as each of those shows despite these slight tonal inconsistencies.
It's a riveting and intelligently written and directed play, which manages to compress the timeline of complex events into an entertaining and easy to understand narrative without ever feeling facile. It does all come to a rather unexpected ending, which, while satisfying thematically, still feels a little unearned. It's clear Walker has his sights set clearly on whom he believes the real villains of the piece are, but in a play which feels like a softly spoken bellow of rage, it's perhaps enough to end with the audience feeling, if nothing else, a little hopeful about the future.
Reviewer: Graeme Strachan