A story of self-made and societal expectations and a reminder NOT to meet them! Hear Me Howl, written by Lydia Rynne and directed by Kay Michael, is a story shared by one strong individual, that voices the thoughts and feelings of hundreds and thousands, or more realistically, millions, of people. Perhaps more commonly younger people, who struggle with feeling boxed in, or submitting to tradition and its subsequent expectations.
I’m not sure whether it’s the sense of empowerment or a bit of schadenfreude that makes Hear Me Howl enjoyable. It’s a double-sided self-help leaflet, but with bits worth remembering: sometimes we need to stop and take some time for ourselves, and sometimes it’s better to not impose expectations on ourselves, and focus on enjoying our achievements rather than obtaining our goals.
Alice Pitt-Carter’s storytelling skills as Jess, and her bravery in committing to such an intimate proxemic, are a joyful reminder that theatre is as much an exploration of shared experiences as it is a chance to escape. Pitt-Carter engages a fairly big handful of people of all demographics; from young to old, black to white, all sexes and all genders. Her energy and passion for the story is highly commendable.
It’s not the easiest story to settle in to, and it can take some time to adjust to the unique format of sharing a monologue with a single actor and her imagination. At times Pitt-Carter presents a joke as a stand-up comedian would, but unfortunately without the expected roar of laughter post-punchline. Her physicalisation of the story is powerful and use of the space creates clear changes in atmosphere, co-existing with her delivery of the unit changes.
This is really well complemented by Martha Godfrey’s excellent lighting, which creates a nice journey through Jess’ emotional states and conveys her varying circumstances brilliantly. It’s very rare to see lighting that holds such great influence in enhancing a piece.
Hear Me Howl follows countless articles that also ask: Why on earth don’t girls receive the same support and encouragement to take up a musical instrument that boys seem to? And why should gender matter anyway, when all you need is hands or a mouth to be able to play, not a specific set of genitals – or any genitals at all for that matter? It’s great to see the archaic tradition being challenged and it’s nice to celebrate people like Pitt-Carter (despite her off-putting rhythm whilst re-enacting the atmosphere of a friends’ gig) standing up, liberating herself from stereotypes and enjoying herself.
Hear Me Howl is a strong, honest and empowering piece with huge relevance. I wish more people, especially those suffering with various struggles whirring around their consciousness, could find solace in this story and feel that they are not alone, despite social media platforms and filters leading us to believing otherwise.
Hear Me Howl is playing at the VAULT Festival until 3 February. For more information and tickets, visit the VAULT Festival website.