Bloody Difficult Women

Tim Walker
Riverside Studios

Alan Miller (Edmund Kingsley) Credit: Mark Senior
Alan Miller (Edmund Kingsley) and Gina Miller (Amara Karan) Credit: Mark Senior
Theresa May (Jessica Turner) and Gina Miller (Amara Karan) Credit: Mark Senior
Minion (Callum Finlay) and Paul Dacre (Andrew Woodall) Credit: Mark Senior

Gina Miller’s (Amara Karan) brave decision to legally challenge the government’s right to exit the EU without parliamentary approval in 2016 pitched her into conflict with prime minister Theresa May (Jessica Turner). It also resulted in her receiving a massive amount of abuse and generating some extraordinary newspaper coverage including the Daily Mail’s notorious headline accusing three senior judges of being “enemies of the people.”

Such stuff has the makings of an entertaining and important play, but what we get with Bloody Difficult Women is a cross between a spoken Wikipedia entry and some crude clichés that were already becoming outdated in the 1980s.

Its key problem is a lack of drama. The play opens with Gina and Theresa sitting on either side of the stage listing aspects of their background as if reciting their CVs. What follows is a series of scenes illustrating the clash between them rather than dramatising the conflict. Gina’s speeches do give us a feeling for her arguments and her context but Theresa is simply an awkward all-purpose prime minister, though she is given the occasional entertaining line. Speaking of the Tories, she says, “leading this party is like keeping order in a noisy boys' public school.”

Tim Walker is clearly on the side of Gina and the remainers, but is sympathetic and respectful of both women. He regards them as similar in many ways, not least in their stubbornness in standing by their beliefs in a society prejudiced against women. However, the incredible concluding scene between these two women is surely hard to believe.

Even less easy to believe is the depiction of Paul Dacre (Andrew Woodall), the then editor of the Daily Mail, as a tabloid bully whose sentences are peppered with “fucks” and “cunts”. If he seems like a Spitting Image cartoon, his sidekick Minion (Callum Finlay) a Mail journalist speaking in an impenetrable early 20th century Cockney slang, seems even more improbable.

To add a dash of dramatic humour to the mix, Tim Walker also includes a dated, unhelpful stereotype of a gay senior civil servant, Sir Hugh Rosen (Graham Seed), preying on younger men he fancies who all look similar and are promoted with an eye for sex.

This play may have been a good idea, but the form it takes lacks dramatic tension, believability or much that is entertaining.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna