1960s New York: a fictional meeting between two key women in Andy Warhol’s life spurs on an exploration of female companionship and feminism.
Nico, (German singer, musician, model and actress) meets Valerie Solanas, (radical feminist and the woman who attempted to murder Andy Warhol) whilst waiting for Warhol to show up on set for his next film. Two women, who initially seem like polar opposites, find that despite their differences, they have a lot in common. Both branded as controversial complex women in the history books, Polly Wiseman’s Femme Fatale showcases them in a new light and peels back the exterior on the inner thoughts that inspired their works.
Wiseman herself plays Nico, and after going back to watch interviews of her: Wiseman’s portrayal is spot on, from the mannerisms to the accent. Likewise, Sophie Olivia, as Solanas, humanises a woman who is summed up on wikipedia by her radical feminist ideas, her mental health issues and her attempted assassination of Warhol. Together these women have great chemistry as these characters, and the pace and comic timing alleviate the existing intrigue in the story.
The show blends styles by breaking up the duo scenes with video footage and one-on-one interactions with the audience through speech and song. At points, the audience interaction can feel a little forced and awkward, with the message of the piece coming through strong enough in the duo scenes. However, the blending of the real life footage illuminates the characters and story.
The two women explore different aspects of what it means to be a feminist, despite the fact that some of their more debatable ideas would not stand today. Nico wants to live in a world where she can produce her own material without having to bend to the needs of men, and to be able to have the support to look after her son. Solanas wants women to no longer be a subject of misogyny, and for her work to be able to get easily published and performed. Two ideas that still face women today.
The end of the piece is a call to arms for women, and nods to the times up movement – making you question whether these women would have experienced the same hardships they did back then if they had been born today.
Femme Fatale is a work that highlights these women in a way they have not been previously; and encourages us to think about a modern equalist way to approach Solanas’ Scum Manifesto.