Cacophony

Molly Taylor
Almeida Young Company
Almeida Theatre

Something happened to Abi.

But before it happened there was the protest.

A football player had been acquitted of rape by a jury containing seven men, and had later made comments about women that didn’t convince Tash (Helena Morais) and her friends that he was innocent.

Things need to change so Tash helps to organise a protest for the following day. Abi (Annie Hawkins) says she will be there but gets distracted that night by meeting Seb (David Bankole) and leaves his home the following morning later than she intended. Helping a pregnant stranger en route to the demo delays her further.

An horrific attack on the demonstration injures Tash and prompts Abi to write a passionate blog linking the attack to the wider abuse of women and the need for greater honesty about these things. She intends it to be a message of concern and solidarity to Tash but it generates a movement of supporters around #Nameit and “Abi for change”.

The problem is that Abi hasn’t been completely honest about what she witnessed and when that is discovered there is a social media backlash from those opposed to the campaign (one male voice shouts “you’ll squeal like a pig when we fuck you”) and disappointed supporters of the movement.

This imaginative, fast-paced production takes us from a birthday party, to dance floor, to demonstration and television studio using only minimal props.

A strong confident cast of seventeen turns the entire space into a performance area as actors seated amongst us suddenly make contributions. But Annie Hawkins as Abbi is the anchor to events in which her character shifts almost accidentally into the role of symbolic campaign leader to shamed victim reeling from the shock of the hostility against her.

Social media has been an incredibly democratising force for social change that has broken through the old establishment stranglehold on what can be said. It has given campaigners for justice a space that is not dependent on the whims of a liberal newspaper.

But, as Molly Taylor’s very fine play demonstrates, there can still be a terrible cost and those caught in the fury of a social media backlash can sometimes be undeserving of its punishing effects.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna