Words without Consent at the Hen and Chickens (Camden Fringe)

Photographer: Lidia Crisafulli. Katie Rice and Ellen Patterson pictured.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘Words without consent’ is a verbatim show: the voices of different politicians and women are layered in a way that dramatically shows the damage being done by blatant misogyny in politics.

A predatory, obnoxious politician with a posh accent shares the words of some truly awful politicians from around the world. I started by trying to identify the source of every toxic comment but soon gave up. He is an archetype not a person, spewing his own sense of superiority while speaking over the other quieter politician, fed by the scarily unchallenged sexist tropes that litter global politics. Frankly the quieter politician isn’t much better, and in attempting to appear more assertive and get the public’s attention, doesn’t simply pander to, but often advances the misogynistic agenda. Each new scene feels more terrifying than the last, as attacks on women are shown as a way to win votes.

Interspersed with misogynistic politicians are the words 2Gals Theatre Company have collected from various women, again channelled into 2 distinct characters, but representing a multitude of shared experiences, with both humour and honesty. They bring the warmth and relatability to the piece, although it does meander a bit in places.

The challenge with a show about tropes and experiences rather than characters, is that it doesn’t follow standard narrative arcs. Fortunately both Rice and Patterson give compelling performances that give the show its momentum. There is an engaging depth to their representations of the women, that shows a respect and compassion for their subjects. Meanwhile the words of the politicians become increasingly grotesque, verging on the point of parody.

‘Words without consent’ holds a mirror up to sexism within government, and it is truly scary that so much dangerous rhetoric not only goes unchecked but is often rewarded. This is a show for anyone who thinks we don’t need feminism, as it reinforces just how prevalent dangerously antiquated opinions about women are. This show doesn’t offer answers, but it does remind us how much work still needs to be done.

Trigger warnings: rape, sexual abuse, abortion, many different flavours of sexism.

‘Words without consent’ is on again at the Hen & Chickens tonight (Wed 11th Aug 2021) at 6pm.

Covid protections in place at the venue:

Hen & Chickens has hand sanitiser readily available. Masks do not seem to be required wearing and socially distanced seating isn’t requested. If you are going for one of the later showings, the pub does get very busy, so not for anyone nervous about crowds and unmasked strangers spitting words barely inches from your face.

The 6pm showing was lovely and quiet , so felt very secure during ‘Words without consent’. I had to fight the urge to run away head of the 9pm show though. Definitely only recommend for those with no on-going anxiety about the fact Covid hasn’t finished with us yet. I will be doing a Covid test this afternoon to be safe, ahead of reviewing tonight.

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