Review: Jina and the Stem Sisters, HMDT musicon
3.0Overall Score

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Jina and the STEM sisters is a musical delve into the wonders of women’s achievements in scientific history, told through intricate singing puppets. This coming of age feminist narrative is stuffed with cheerful songs about epistemology and astrology, all glittered with a childlike curiosity of the universe. We find ourselves in a geometric forest against a starlit background where our protagonist Jina begins a mission of discovery into some of the most influential women in the STEM field.

The camera throws us onstage, where we see close-ups of detailed carving and embroidery which bring these wooden dolls to live. Sophia Lovell Smith’s design is striking, with a vivid colour palette and matching performer costumes. While the experience is vibrant in its educational content, the inclusion of projected diagrams may have aided the onslaught of scientific terms sprinkled through the songs. Some of the character biographies are musically uninspiring as we hear line after line of mouthy terminology. Sure, it’s fun to watch a puppet dancing in a little hoop skirt to a rap about algorithms, but it is not easy to follow. Regardless, there’s much joy to be found in the performers flinging puppets through the air so that their tiny gowns float out.

The voice acting is cheerful, with hearty feminist tunes such as, “Persist! Sister, persist!” We don’t lack women in STEM subjects; we lack representation of them and the importance of work that empowers young women cannot be understated. I only wish these discussions were not so heavily centered around white feminism. While there are various mentions of women of colour in this show, most of our central figures are white women. The out of place line about the NASA hidden figures is such an indirect attempt at broadening the spectrum of women discussed, it’s almost awkward. We cannot treat women of colour as an undertone to white women if we want progressive representation. It goes without saying that it’s white feminism at its best, this is not enough for the political climate of 2021.

None of the songs pass the Bechdel test as the women are always framed with their respective husband and father figures. Mary Curie’s discovery of radiation is marked as a tragic tale of a martyr whose brave endeavours into science have since saved millions of lives. With this narrative in mind, I wish there was something more to Hedy Lamarr’s song about how one can be both beautiful and intelligent. The feminisms embedded in this production seem to fall short of being relevant to a modern audience, particularly with the current uproar against the British patriarchy. Jina and the STEM Sisters is a cheerful, if an on-the-nose story about how girls should never doubt their abilities to succeed in a male-dominated field.

Jina and the STEM sisters is available online until the 11th April. For more information and tickets, see HMDT musicon online.