So & So Arts Club is squirrelled away in a sedate mews five minutes walk from Bank station. The club is situated in charming Georgian house and once you step inside you are welcomed by several warm and inviting members of staff, which are just as much part of the experience as the intriguing, elusive and inspiring Aprha Behn. The Masks of Aphra Behn is a one-woman show which is part of the Women and War festival being held at So & So Arts club until the end of July.
Aphra Behn was the first female professional playwright in England, while also having worked as a spy for King Charles II in the Dutch wars. A prolific woman for the 1600s. The set design was simple, yet intriguing with one chair on a raised platform, several wooden posts and four curious ribbons hanging with intermittent hooks placed upon them. A masked woman entered the stage, with great confidence and power she began to recite a monologue from The Rover, a play written by Aphra. Once the actress removed her mask, she revealed that she was Aphra and we would in fact not be seeing a play this evening, but instead hearing the tale of her life. One of lust, temptation, politics and deprivation.
Claire Louise Amias writes and stars in The Masks of Aphra Behn, evolving into a smorgasbord of characters across Aprhas’s life. Through movement, various voices, accents and physical transformations, Amias alternated between the narrator and characters seamlessly. The emotion she portrayed translated as real, current and authentic which she used to immerse the audience into the boisterous existence that was Aphra Behn. There were letters pinned up on the elusive hanging ribbons through the show as Aphra told of her struggle while being stranded while on her mission. Each letter was carefully unfolded and meticulously placed to represent the importance that these correspondents and writing had in her struggle and her life. The sound design (Keri Danielle Chesser) was effective, immersive and practical in the creation of Surinam, plague-ridden London and Antwerp.
The overall production was entertaining, witty, well written and insightful into the life of a woman who at times seems forgotten. The women and War Festival is giving voices to those who may not always be heard – whether it is real female victims of war telling their story or telling a story through the medium of theatre. So & So Arts club is an inspirational and captivating venue that is definitely worth supporting.
The Masks of Aphra Behn is running at So & So Arts Club intermittently until the end of July. For information and tickets, see The Women and War website.