“Stop complaining, there is no narrative”

Written by Abi Zakarian (Fabric, Fringe First Winner 2016), I Have a Mouth and I Will Scream is one of three pieces of new writing co-produced for the Vault Festival 2018 by the award-winning theatre company Joyous Gard. Created in 2017 by Frankie Parham and siblings Beth and Joe Eyre, the group have an appetite for artistic experimentation and a vision for change within the industry. Presented alongside Timothy by David K. Barnes and Tiger by the male Eyre, Zakarian’s play fortifies the trio with a shared dark humour and its playful approach to gender roles through a collective screaming from the matriarchy.

The sound of ‘Bang On’ by The Breeders chews at the heels of six women as they prowl about the audience, quick to silence jabbering mouths and pinching available arms. The rouge floor burns heatedly against their cream trench coats, which they hang on wooden hooks fastened to the back wall of their uneven universe. Placards lie dormant as the group shrug off their outer-layers, revealing a uniform of oversized t-shirts bearing the slogan “We Should All Be Feminists”. It is then that a polite game dissolves into uncivilised quarrelling; the starting pistol for what becomes a 60-minute frenzy of feminism.

Zakarian’s Prejudicial Resistance comes down on important topics that are currently circling both the online and offline worlds. A bride muses over her pre-wedding starvation regime, outlining the pressures to fit in a dress rather than finding a dress to fit her. Progress in the arts is laughable, and a strange buzzing turns into a song of sisterhood. War paint glares a lip-smacking pink as the women elbow their way through a torturous mani-pedi and the stigma associated with the dreaded ageing process. Then, they dance in high heels through history lessons of American artist Judy Chicago, who famously coined the term ‘feminist art’ in the 1970s. Her piece ‘Red Flag’ waves like a matador to an angry bull, fuelled by an implied outrage surrounding the Tampon Tax before continuing further into discrimination.

As Woman 1, Karren Winchester demonstrates a phenomenal handle on comedy throughout. Her investigation into the inappropriate attitudes of men in the workplace causes an avalanche of laughter, and is a wonderful nod to the disproportionate ratio of female to male stand-up comics on the circuit. However, it is a shame that the fevered pace of the action masks so many potential instances for humour within the script. Lines are lost as the cast rushes madly from point to point, which makes for a haphazard environment onstage.

Winchester’s final speech sees a deceleration in the momentum of the piece, which allows spectators to fully appreciate the urgency with which they are addressed. If the entirety of the production had been approached with this same attention, I Have a Mouth and I Will Scream could have been much more impactful. At present, it confronts a wealth of political and emotional subjects, but regrettably, its revolution is awfully rough around the edges.

I Have a Mouth and I Will Scream is playing at The Vaults, Waterloo until February 18 2018

Photo: The Vaults