This Really Is Too Much

Kate Cox, Sofia Edstrand, Rachel Fullegar, Rebecca Holmberg
Gracefool Collective
Northern Stage, Newcastle

“All the world’s a stage,” Shakespeare tells us, “and one man in his time plays many parts.” These parts are the seven ages of man, he tells us, and one follows the other as the man goes through his life.

It’s a bit different for women though, according to Gracefool Collective. They have to play their parts simultaneously.  But that’s great because:

“Look. (point) You’ve never had it so good,” they say right from the start, as they sit facing the audience. “We. Are moving. Forward.”

From domestic goddess, delighting in her wonderful cleaning product, to bikini-clad beauty queen with her tiara, silver glittered high-heeled platform shoes and her burning desire for a new economic policy (and world peace!); from would-be executive trying to sell herself and her qualifications (and they are many!) to seductive porn star, and so much more between – health food fanatic, water drinker, beauty product user, supporting each other - and obstructing too (“I don’t have a [tick] box for that.”)

And the pressure is relentless – fevered, febrile, frantic – and takes its toll, as the smiling, posed “look how perfect we are” group ‘photos’ grow more forced and wilting as the show progresses

It’s an amalgam of dance and physical theatre with text and a wide range of very appropriate music, from Handel to Whitney Houston. It’s fast moving – increasingly so, in fact – and what starts out as amusing, eliciting a few smiles now and then, become increasingly funny, then hilarious, but it’s hilarity with an edge (and a bloody sharp one at that!) for what we are laughing at is the desperation of these women to live up to the standards they – or rather, society – has imposed on them, to be the perfect woman in modern society.

It’s the bleakest of black comedy and clearly makes huge demands upon the performers’ skill and energy, but it’s worth it, for it hits the target slap in the middle of the bullseye.


Peter Lathan