“I want awe. I feel like I need blood. All the time. And anything less than that makes me feel desperate. It makes me feel like I want to die.”
Following the success of Oil in 2016, Ella Hickson returns to the Almeida Theatre with The Writer, directed by Blanche McIntyre.
The Writer opens with an encounter between a young woman, the Writer, played by Lara Rossi and an older man, Samuel West, the director. She is raging, she wants “the World to change shape […], dismantle capitalism and patriarchy”. Men get to make the World and women simply get to live in it. From the very beginning, the play questions the function of the theatre as a place where we should be able to “scream the things we can’t say in real life”. Yet the very essence of the theatre is undermined by the need for money and for plays to be commercial hits.
Enter Romola Garai and Michael Gould. Reset. The Writer is a play within a play. Garai is a young nervy new writer, tentative, apologising for occupying the space and having something to say. Gould, on the other hand, is the older dominant male figure who wants to help her and take the play to the next level by giving it structure and ultimately making sure seats are sold.
Garai is fantastic and owns the stage from the start and as the play evolves she manages to morph and find her voice. She is the one screaming and raging yet even at her most confident she can be swayed by her male counterparts. From tentative, she becomes dominant, to the point of exuding in her sex life the very same domination she deplores in men.
Rossi brings another dimension to the play. She is the voice of the Writer at first, saying things that the Writer can’t say, challenging the man in the room. West and Gould’s acting is on point, standing tall and strong representing all men in women’s lives. Behind their generosity they manipulate and steer conversations to get what they want. The play is reflective of a generation that decides to speak up and break the silence. However, it also seems to deny the possibility that both men and women could come together.
The play tackles different subject like power, genders, sex but the ultimate aim is to start a discussion about money and the power attached to it, how plays have become a product. The play shifts but always takes us back to the idea that the theatre is based in social politics. It restricts the ability to explore all topics and challenge the audience. In the end the result is a landscape where all the work looks the same so it can easily translate into profit.
Impassioned, The Writer draws the audience in for two hours of uninterrupted debate.
The Writer plays at the Almeida Theatre until May 26th.
Images: Manuel Harlan.