Nine Foot Nine, after some afterthought I realise refers to the alternate reality in this play where women commonly grow to said height. Whilst an interesting concept in which women develop Amazonian levels of strength and dimensions, the actual point of creating this world still remains to be seen.
My main issue is that writer Alex Wood does not choose to explain this sudden change in the growth rates of womankind. Women are now stronger and larger than men, and are seen as the dominant ones, and whilst he suggests the themes of the effect this has on the animal kingdom and issues of status, which could have been the crux of the play, this is not explored enough for it to seem to have any real relevance. Those who do not grow at the accelerated rate are called “stunters” and are shamed for it, however the attitudes towards this are again not discussed in much detail, and seeing as this is a recent phenomenon, you would think that the stigma would be attached to the exponential growing, rather than the former.
In the programme, Sleepless Theatre proclaims that there are so many themes to explore in this 60- minute piece that it simply isn’t possible to cover everything in this time frame, which begs the question- why did they decide it was best to keep all of the content, if new ideas are introduced but then do not have a middle or an end for the audience to draw their own conclusions? Unfortunately, instead of leaving The Bunker Theatre asking questions about the actual action in the piece, we leave asking what was actually going on in the first place.
As inclusive productions go, this is one of the most inclusive I have seen, with close- captioning incorporated into Jessica Hung’s lighting design for both the deaf and for those who do not know sign language, as there are scenes in which solely sign language is used, putting those who are able-bodied in the shoes of those who need this accessibility on a daily basis. However, this can be unforgiving as it also highlights instances in which actors forget their lines and slows the pace when the captions are ahead of what is being spoken, causing us to wait for what we know should be said. Through her sound design, Nicola Chang creates punchy scene changes, pumping the space with multicoloured light and deep vibrations, as media audio recordings play in order to emphasise the effect of “sprouters”.
Under Helena Jackson’s direction, each actor has their own strengths and weaknesses, such as Alexandra James’ (Cara) emotive signing, Paul O’Dea’s endearing but sometimes mumbling Nate, and Natalie Kimmerling’s mostly stony-faced Sophie.
Is this meant to be an allegory for the growing strength that women have in western society? That they are being listened to and given value more so than ever before? Could it be a comment on the rapidly ever-changing social/ political/ environmental climate in which we find ourselves in? After seeing Nine Foot Nine, my take away is, who knows?
Nine Foot Nine is playing at The Bunker Theatre until 7 July 2018
Photo: Katie Edwards