What happens when a tomboy who loves mud and football starts to believe she really is a boy? And, more than that, a boy who could rise to the heights of an 80s movie star. Well, confusion and disappointment one would suppose. But Hutson tells us that, ironically, action heroes were the role models that actually taught her about feminism. It’s a skewed vantage point but there is some logic in it.
From the outset Hutson launches into her family history, calling it the ‘Freudian Disneyland’ of her past, and through some heartening storytelling she draws out the connection between her childhood obsession with action movies and her own desire to be more than just a ‘strong female character’: she wanted to be the Indiana Jones, the Marty McFly and most of all, the Bruce Willis of her own life.
Cue some very funny Bruce Willis impressions and an impressive run through of all the Die Hard movies. If you’re a Action Movie fan you’ll get a lot out of this show, although you will have to contend with some fairly uncomfortable moments where Hutson relives the time she was sexually assaulted as a 13 year old girl. Not that comedy can’t be used to cut through some more difficult real life topics, but the tone of this show struggles to stay comic at quite a few points. And that’s probably because the message at its heart is more important than the comedy.
There’s no fault with the message; it affirms female empowerment and encourages us to ascribe the attributes of male action heroes to women: banter, boldness and boisterousness. Hutson also contradicts the perfection found in female heroines like Lara Croft, pointing out that, in the male movie world, sexy men are short (McFly), nerdy (Bill and Ted), obnoxious (Han Solo) and, in the case of Bruce Willis, bald. This is where the skewed logic of her opening comes to fruition; Hutson doesn’t deny her attraction to the loveable scoundrels of the action movie world, and she doesn’t deny her right to be like them either: a very positive win:win situation. There was plenty of head nodding in the audience throughout this performance, and Hutson is certainly has a winning personality, but this comedy sure felt a lot like a lesson in equality issues at times.
If you’re looking for comedy then this isn’t going to have you in stitches, but if you fancy a bucket show with a big heart and a powerful message then you won’t be disappointed.
Rowena Hutson: Strong Female Character runs at Gilded Balloon, Counting House until August 28th and begins each day at 6pm. This is a ‘pay what you can’ show.