Jasper Cunningham-Ward reviews What Makes You a Woman at Edinburgh Fringe.
“What makes you a woman?” the performers ask. Luckily, as I am in fact male, they gave their own answers. This production gives a whirlwind tour of the position of women in society, starting with the suffragettes and working its way up to the present day. With punchy delivery and a well-crafted script, the performers manage to successfully explore ideas of womanhood in a historical, factual, but still entertaining manner.
Beginning with voices describing what they like about being a woman, the actors then emerge into a tightly choreographed sequence. Starting in the 20th century, each period is presented with its own tone.
Some, tinted with humour, present a caricature of the dated ideas about a woman’s place being in the domestic sphere. These moments become more poignant when later on in the production questions about progress are asked and explored. The script was particularly well put together in this aspect, flitting between humour and more serious undertones, keeping the audience on their toes. The format lent chosen itself well to the limited time slot of the fringe; one moment you are laughing at the idea of a squeaky clean housewife in the 1950s, the next you are learning about a woman’s part in the discovery of DNA who was swept under the rug.
Whilst impressions of Margaret Thatcher and Katie Hopkins worked less well, they helped explore women in the spotlight during different periods. The final segment, set in the modern day, presented a powerful message about female solidarity, or lack of it, in modern society compared to the suffragette period. Interestingly this segment chimed well with the performers as they delivered their final piece of individual dialogue, each stating what they feel makes them a woman, before speaking the last line of the production together. Here they both are allowed individuality whilst still standing in solidarity with one another.
Overall, the performance was brave, fierce and impressive, particularly for such a young group. The production is both thought provoking and entertaining. Arguably it is important for young voices to join the discussion and this is a good platform to do it. If nothing else, go for a refresher on your 20th century women’s history.