Charlotte Pegram reviews Bridle at Camden People's Theatre
Three women roam the stage wearing large silicone horse heads. You might be forgiven for thinking you’ve walked into an art installation but this is a distinctly straight-talking play. And, when the horse heads come off, Bridle becomes an explosive play which explores what might happen if the power of female sexuality was no longer reigned in.
Part of the HotBed: Festival of Sex at the Camden People’s Theatre, Bridle sets out a simple premise; what would happen if, instead of shaming women into sexual conformity, there were laws which controlled any sex act a woman might want to perform. The premise is serious, but the tone of the content is largely comical. The three women on stage play the same central character, taking it in turns to deliver monologues about her sexual adventures past and present. The performance of all three women is well balanced, but it is Stephanie Martin who captures the audience with her suave, nonchalant delivery of the most acerbic lines.
The content is explicit as you might expect, and it doesn’t shy away from dealing with taboos like rape fantasies and female desire for violence during sex. What’s not clear, though, is the stance taken on these issues. The central character clearly doesn’t give a damn what anyone else thinks or wants; she rails against ‘normal’ people who have ‘normal’ relationships. (I feel sorry for anyone who watches this show and happens to being wearing either an owl dress or a item of Harry Potter jewellery.) But it’s hard to open up a space for new narratives alongside a character who is so full of invective. Would anyone enter into a feminist debate with a woman who likes to sext about asphyxiation fantasies under the dinner table? Go on, prude-shame me, I dare you.
In general, the laughter of satire works to ridicule the target of one’s hate; in this case, patriarchal control over female desire. But surely most people entered the theatre already convinced that women should have the right to steer the course of their own sexuality? At times it felt as though the anger in the play was misdirected. What I wanted was not for this character to be pitted against the men who had arrested her for sex crimes, I wanted her to tell me about sex, desire and love just because she could, just because she wanted to.
Bridle is bold and comical. It’s a play that storms onto the stage, kicking and screaming to be heard. I came away not entirely sure what it was saying at times, but I did think about it an awful lot afterwards. I’d be interested to see it again if it rears its head in another version later along the line, and would recommend that you do too.
Bridle played at Camden People’s Theatre on April 26th.
Check out Clamour’s Facebook Page to see when Bridle will be playing again.