The Maiden Speech festival is a series of short works designed to showcase young student’s explorations of gender and sexuality. It was intended to give an outlet for female performers to step away from the dominant images in current entertainment and culture and create their own, restriction free, images of life for us to view on stage.
The first performance of this festival belongs to Mountview student Christina Bloom. Her 55 minute show describes itself as one that defies stereotypes ‘in a world that insists upon boxing, packaging and labelling’. Bloom is already on stage when we file into the small theatre and she’s putting together a suspiciously box-like metal structure. It’s the kind that slots together flimsily (think Ikea) and she takes her time, and ours, erecting it correctly. In the meantime an incredibly grating loop of indecipherable whispered voices plays too loudly from speakers on the stage. The box frame comes together and, finally, the action can begin.
I won’t explain the symbolism of Bloom creating the box which goes on to be used as an acting space of repression. Instead I’ll say Bloom utilises a fantastically chosen speech about getting girls to just be girls again which, when played on the background projector, makes Bloom, and the entirety of the the mostly female audience, cringe. We’re treated to such lines like ‘Sweetheart, sometimes you just need to act like a girl, and that means putting in a little effort, getting dressed up, being beautiful.’
After this moment, Bloom goes on to start an autobiographical narrative about her own relationship, beginning with how she and her wife met. It’s a sweet story and Bloom shines with genuine adoration for her spouse. However, this is the turning point away from Bloom’s original mission statement.
It’s clear that for Bloom, this is not really an overall or wide ranging look at gender constraints, it’s far more personal. She’s a lively performer, and perhaps the most interesting, and distracting, element to watch was her dizzying array of skills. Bloom plays the violin, the guitar, the piano, she composes and sings, she tap dances and at one point she tap dances while playing the violin (don’t ask how that’s possible, it just is). It’s beautiful, and a little exhausting.
I enjoyed Bloom’s passion and apparently boundless energy, but after the first 10 minutes, this felt far more like a showcase of her particular talents, as well as her self-professed, ‘Cinderella to Cinderella’ story, rather than an in-depth exploration of gender boundaries as a universal experience.
Inside Out played Theatre N16 until Saturday 14th October.