The Royal Court has been extraordinary as of late at dedicating their spaces to let women experiment with form. Ellie Kendrick’s debut play Hole is another experiment: not so much a theatre show as it is a visceral portrayal of the wide spectrum of womanhood. It is the kind of show that makes you think “what am I watching?” right from the get go – whether that is a good thought or a bad thought is a matter of preference.
Hole is, without a doubt, a Marmite show – it is bound to split audiences. The six women who make up the cast perform without abandon. They are rawness and chaos personified; sorrow and celebration juxtaposed. Their experience of womanhood is not so much presented to the audience as much as it is shoved in our face. You daren’t look away, for to look away would be to rob these women of the story that they are entitled to tell. The show is an explosion of feminist rage, the culmination of millennia of ill treatment.
Kendrick never allows us to truly find our footing within the piece. We are transported from an empty stage, lit only by a single spot, to Ancient Greece, and then to the particles of outer space with nary a warning. Like the performance, the text is chaos. Intentionally so, I believe, though the intent is difficult to place.
While the text itself is jumpy and disjointed, the creative team are rousingly successful at ensuring that the w-Hole production works as one coherent piece. Where there is chaos in the action, there is meticulous order in the design. Katharine Williams’ lighting is glorious, spanning from that sole spotlight that opens the show to floods of light that blind the audience – it literally dazzles. Emily Legg’s sound design paves the way for the women to tell their stories: deafening bangs, musical numbers, and eerie silences let them take charge of the narrative – supporting their storytelling, not defining it. Ruth Best’s costume supervision sees the women decked out in mismatched clothing and lingerie, semi-nude at times, yet completely removes any semblance of sexual performativity.
I’ve been ruminating on the show for almost 24 hours and I am still unsure of what exactly I was watching, but the emotions within the show are abundantly clear. It is fire, it is pain, it is rebellion, it is protest, it is freedom. It is womanhood.
Hole is playing The Royal Court until January 12. For more information and tickets, click here.