Power Play: The Empty Chair

Polly Creed
Power Play Theatre
Pleasance Pop-Up: Power Play HQ
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Hollywood dinner parties are probably not quite as relaxed as they used to be before the Weinstein revelations. The #MeToo movement has given many women more confidence to speak about the sexual abuse they have experienced while working in film and television.

Polly Creed has drawn on interviews with performers in London to construct a play about an imagined dinner party in the home of Grace (Blaithin Carroll) in Hollywood.

The twelve members of the audience sit on three sofas in what looks like a large living room; the actors sit at a central dining table. Their initial conversation is light and amiable.

Things soon change when Ingrid (Roisin Tapponi) reveals she has separated from her husband Martin, a powerful figure in the film industry. We are never quite sure of her reasons for the separation but the mention of Martin, who is not present, triggers very disturbing memories for the other three.

Elizabeth (Emma Cavolli) claims she was raped by Martin. Grace recalls a confused consensual encounter with Martin in which she is certain much of it was not consensual.

The only male at the table is James (Nick Hyde) who is shocked and sympathetic but fails to tell them about his own experience. Instead he steps forward to speak a monologue to us of when he was 16 or 17 being trapped by Martin into a terrifying sexual experience.

Ingrid misses much of what is said, in part because she steps out for a smoke, but also because such conversations feel alien to her. She argues that “there are always two sides to a story”, and none of this was a problem in the 1980s. In the past, men were just “expected to be pigs.”

The play is sensitively performed by an engaging cast. Although the intimacy of the performance space gives the play a special intensity, the audience are advised they can take a break at anytime and should feel free to talk with the performers after the show.

Keith Mckenna