“Imagining what it’s like to be someone else is at the core of our humanity. It is the essence of compassion and the beginning of morality,”said Ian McEwan, author to the many fabulous books that take centre stage in this performance.  It is evident that McEwan really delves into the individual as his characters have more depth and history than most fictional characters. As a male writer, it is fascinating to see how much McEwan delves in when building his female characters and after seeing this show, there is a greater appreciation for the role of the women in his novels.

In McEwan’s Women, the audience is taken through the different life stages from Atonement’s young Bryony all the way through to Julie’s approach to motherhood and loss in The Child in Time. Along the way the audience meets Florence from On Chesil Beach, Serena from Sweet Tooth, Maria from The Innocent, Caroline from The Comfort of Strangers and Melissa from Solar. For those who have read any of the those texts, it is fascinating to see these character brought to life and for those who have curiosity to put the extracts in context, they are likely to be driven to the nearest book shop.

This show takes its audience through a full range of emotions, which makes the characters all the more real. Although it is often quite funny, it takes into consideration the vulnerability of the inexperienced woman, the struggles of married life and the unexplainable and unconditional love a mother has for her child. There is definitely one aspect of one character that every member of the audience can relate to regardless of gender due to the realness of his characters.

Kevin Potton plays The Busker who brings most of the play’s humour but also expertly fits Porter’s songs nicely into the narrative while playing his accordion. Potton also takes on a few of McEwan’s male characters so that the context of the scene is clearer and often his facial expressions are far more effective than any amount of words. Hannah Keighron plays all the different women in the play. She skilfully glides from one character to another bringing the innocence, pains, vulnerability and joy of each woman into reality.

Cole Porter is the most perfect touch to this play. It’s almost as if McEwan wrote his novels with Porter in mind. Songs such as ‘Let’s Misbehave’, ‘What Is This Thing Called Love’, ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’ and ‘Every Time We Say Goodbye’ prove to be wonderful compliments to the chosen extracts.

This short play really shows how complex McEwan’s characters are and how realistic his creations are. Not only would I recommend seeing this show to any literature lover, I would recommend reading these books too.

McEwan’s Women  plays Etcetera Theatre until 16 August. For more info and tickets, see the Camden Fringe website. Image by Etcetera Theatre.