national Arts Festival Banner

Saturday, January 10, 2009


“When does one become a woman?” Musho! Festival piece directed by Emma Durden (Review by Shika Budhoo)

After watching the second one-woman show presented at Musho! Theatre Festival this year, it’s nice to see the diversity, so far, in the types of shows on this year’s line-up. Womanhood, written and performed by Mary Steward and directed by Emma Durden, presented the life of Mary Steward in search of the definition or rather ‘achievement’ of her ‘womanhood’.

The audience is launched into the story of Steward’s discovery of her self and the many influences (in the form of people and situations) that shape her womanhood. Many characters based on stereotypes were presented. There were obvious influential characters to her discovery, those being our mothers, female siblings, girl-friends, grandmothers and female family friends. I particularly enjoyed the point she touched on when she included an influence to her womanhood being Lena, their maid. I was, however, disappointed that the intimate connection between a domestic worker and daughter of the ‘missus’ was not fully explored … because I have learnt more about my own womanhood, from intimate connections with unassuming influences.

The topics expected to be revealed when presenting a show on ‘the essence of a woman’ were vast and conventional - they included menstruation; marriage; kids; shopping; the ‘bitchy’-potential all woman possess; panties; the birds and the bees talk from her mother; period pains; cliques at school; the controlled mom opposed to the new mother stressed-out; the first French kiss; her first sexual encounter; her first rejection; dressing room encounters; friends newly engaged to be married; the step-mom involvement; dating; love, and the search for the constant redefinition of her life as a woman.

However, although these topics were present - as it should be in any show about a woman - further exploration in many of these topics was evidently needed. At times delicate and intriguing moments were brought to the fore, but were not carried to its optimal dramatic and comedic potential.

Moments that fully captured my attention included Steward’s great representation of her experience of her first kiss at a party; with awkward teenage dancing and the nonchalant air every teenage girl wishes she could pull off. Steward effectively conveyed the ecstasy in one moment of being ‘part of the clique’ and overjoyed at her first kiss, and her new boyfriend, and the next moment was rejected by the very source of her pleasure moments before. I was very moved by this.

Other moments that stood out were when she played the busy step-mom, the new mother with baby on her shoulder obviously lacking sleep, and the scene in which her friend is showing off about her new status: engaged. These, for me were good moments that entertained, informed and drew emotion.

Set was minimal, with black white and pink being the primary colours. It was an interesting set, however underused. Music choice was brilliant - it was a device that, for me, brought to mind one’s own soundtrack to growing up.

Womanhood, which has potential in terms of the concept it attempted to create on stage may have been the definitive piece for expressing true femininity. While the potential was never fully realized, the piece is still good for a chuckle! - Shika Budhoo