Following runs at the Edinburgh Fringe and the Courtyard Theatre, Plunge Theatre brings Private View to Theatre Delicatessen. The piece is a critical look at how women treat their bodies, and how this relates to media practice and perception. Fuelled by a sense of anger, the piece is entertaining and darkly funny, but doesn’t quite succeed in all of its objectives.
In their programme notes, Plunge Theatre thanks the patriarchy for inspiring the creation of Private View. If you’re already a feminist, or if you’ve ever taken a look at a women’s magazine, or frankly if you’ve ever existed in the same space as a woman, Private View is unlikely to be a hugely enlightening experience for you. Most people are aware of the bizarre beauty standards to which women are held by their peers and by the media – we’re not learning anything new.
However, the piece takes these familiar and uncomfortable aspects of patriarchy and makes them even more uncomfortable for the viewer. The idea of make-up becomes laughable and then unsavoury, and the way in which the audience is confronted with the question, ‘Do you think I would look better if…?’ is extremely unsettling. The grooming rituals of the 21st century woman are exposed as ridiculous and as upsetting, representative of a society that cannot see beyond their physical appearance.
Lilly Pollard, Izabella Malewska, and Tutku Barbaros are a formidable ensemble, and their strong chemistry and communication keeps up the pace of the performance. We get the sense that they are baring themselves to us with their seemingly honest accounts of catcalls and comments about their physical appearance, and their stories of taboo bodily functions that nice girls just would not have. There is no weak performance, nor is there an especially strong one; every actor has her chance to shine and to express her frustrations.
However, I wished the piece had engaged more critically with the idea of media perception and portrayal of women as stated in the programme. In reality it engaged mostly with flippant comments made about weight and looks, and not really with the wider problem of media representation at all. There was a lot of room to go more in depth with how women are represented, especially compared to the better representation of men. This is a 45 minute piece that is good in itself but could easily be extended in order to say something more profound.
On the whole, Private View encapsulates a lot of what is great about fringe theatre, using interesting theatre techniques and creative practices to make an important point about patriarchal society. Don’t expect it to change your life – but do expect it to be sharp, witty, and insightful.
Private View plays at Theatre Delicatessen, Farringdon Road, until 31 January. For more information and tickets, see the Theatre Delicatessen website.