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24/7: Three Women & The Lives and Loves of Vera Dymond

Joan Davies asks where's the empowerment?

Written by . Published on July 23rd 2014.

24/7: Three Women & The Lives and Loves of Vera Dymond

TWO PLAYS at the 24/7 Theatre Festival (running until Fri 25 July), each about three women, have left me wanting to see a play about women who live their lives undominated by accidental pregnancies or abusive relationships.

Women like the ones I know.  

As such it’s a tale of empowerment, but set in sleaze, bullying and sexual grooming made worse as the women allow rivalry to help the men rather than themselves.

The first, neatly named Three Women, centres on three generations of women in one family as they prepare to say goodbye to a life that never was. Sixteen-year-old Ellie has lost the baby she didn't even knew she had.

Ellie cannot face the funeral but her mother Lorraine believes it is a duty that must be fulfilled. When Lorraine’s mother tries to intervene, guilt and resentment from the past threaten to ruin Lorraine’s plans and divide the family forever. 

Three WomenThree Women

There’s plenty here to recommend this play. The story is teased out piece by piece; the lines are realistic, maybe too much so at times, and the performances don’t waver.

Annie Edwards as Nan, Jackie Jones as Lorraine and Lily Shepherd as Ellie are all believable and use the tiny kitchen set in a completely naturalistic way, but the story and emotion never fully take flight.

Dialogue too is naturalistic at times, perhaps too much so as meaningless unanswered platitudes left to hang in the air do little to drive plot or character. 

The set is a puzzle, as is the start of the play, where little happens for five minutes except a kettle boiling while we listen to a news item about two hundred Ghanaians seeking political asylum in Brazil during the World Cup.

The kitchen is drenched in mildew. I wondered if we were in the damp Brazilian jungle, but no, it’s Radio 4 on the wireless not the World Service. I’m guessing the mildew might be intended to represent the decay of the relationships within the family.

“We never entirely grow up, we just get older,” says writer Mari Lloyd.

Img_7691The Lives and Loves of Vera Dymond

The second play by Jayne Marshall, The Lives and Loves of Vera Dymond, is a livelier look at female mistakes: the mistake of relying on others to achieve your ambitions, the mistake of holding onto an abusive relationship, and the mistake of not taking charge.

Vera, an aging once-successful Blackpool singer, is scared by the younger competition, but eventually encourages the younger women, and then herself, to find their own voice. 

As such it’s a tale of empowerment, but set in sleaze, bullying and sexual grooming made worse as the women allow rivalry to help the men rather than themselves. 

The comedy, mainly provided by Kimberley Hart-Simpson’s character Renee, succeeds and the violence in the relationships, suffered by Vera (Melissa Sinden) and inflicted by Billy (Pat Lally) or Vic (Adrian Palmer) is powerfully staged via the increasingly popular approach of having the characters in different parts of the stage, not physically connecting. 

The show includes original songs too, not particularly memorable, but certainly well performed by the three women, particularly Laura Mould as Caitlin. 

Neither play is a misrepresentation of women, nor should they really suffer the burden just because of a few coincidences. No one-hour play is expected to speak for all the women on the planet. Each play stands alone at this lively, high-quality festival.

But the coincidence of the two plays does leave me wanting a tale of stronger empowerment. 

24:7 Theatre Festival, with ten new one-hour plays, runs at New Century House until Friday 25 July.

Tickets (£6-£8) from www.247theatrefestival.co.uk 

The Lives and Loves of Vera DymondThe Lives and Loves of Vera Dymond

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