New review: Women, Power & Politics: Now

// 19 July 2010

Laura Nelson reviews this collection of short plays at London’s Tricycle theatre

As part of The Tricycle’s Women, Power & Politics series, the theatre is hosting two collections of short plays; ‘Now‘ focusing on contemporary issues of women and politics, and ‘Then‘, which turns its gaze on the past. This is a review of ‘Now’, the contemporary-focused half of the programme.

An actor playing the role of female politician strides across the stage. She’s confident, she’s powerful. This is contemporary society, after all, in which women have the same rights as men to work, to become politicians and to become leaders of the country if they want to.

But there’s something amiss. Will this woman get what her male counterparts are getting? She is better, she works harder, but she is judged more harshly. She may work herself to exhaustion, she may achieve great results; but the criticism, the lack of support and the centuries-old legacy of male dominance that hack away at her self-esteem and warp how people perceive her, stop her in her tracks.

The first of the ‘Now’ plays, by Joy Wilkinson, is the story of Margaret Beckett, the Acting Leader of the Opposition and the sole female candidate in the race to lead the Labour party. Should she go for deputy as well? Her inner voice – the self-doubt that is the result of a lifetime of society’s pressure on women to give way to men – tells her that men deserve more. “Don’t listen to the men, you are the best!” say the (few) voices supporting her. But Tony Blair and John Prescott have more money for their campaigns. The newspapers say how good Tony is – and how bad she is. She doesn’t give up. She runs. She comes third. The woman who worked so hard for her party doesn’t even win her old job back.

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