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review: women on the verge

Image Credit: The Bridge Theatre Company

Image Credit: The Bridge Theatre Company

 

Tangos, valiant phrases and spirited performances – Women on the Verge is a political act that recreates different phases of female subjugation. In a misogynistic society, women are shamed into keeping male dominated acts of abuse to themselves. The play sums up a lifetime of abuse women undergo wordlessly.

The play comprises of four monologues depicting sexual violence against working class women – a locked up housewife hushed into insanity, a sex worker lusting for revenge, a grief-stricken rape victim and a factory worker juggling between being a mother and a wife. These women have one thing in common – they’ve bottled up their trauma of sexual abuse and let it impact their sanity.

These characters are symbols of women in contemporary society who fall prey to sexual violence at some point in their lives. Though women in this era are employed, independent and self-sufficient, many allow themselves to be pushed around by men sexually and physically. Intimate family related homicides are treated as taboo topics and are often hushed up.

Women on the Verge aims to counteract this taboo and let the voice of women resound powerfully across the stage. The actors flawlessly show the contrast between bold women clad in “provocative” lingerie and rattled women afraid to speak up. They transform into gallant cabaret dancers, lashing dauntlessly against abuse against women? in spite of their objectification. The play also uses a tint of humour to balance a grimly set atmosphere brimming with strong words and stirring enactments of victimisation.

The play transcends from one song to its respective monologue to depict the story of each character. The first monologue shows the character of a wife sexually trapped by her husband’s unwavering needs. The actor executes the role of a nymphomaniac, on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The play highlights the normalisation of female objectification that takes place under our very noses. Women face sexual obligation and are barred from having an opinion, but for men, sex is customary. Choice is not an option for women, nor is speaking up looked upon righteously.

Women on the Verge brings out the stark differences between the predicament of men and women, still blatant in contemporary society. Sex workers are portrayed as nothing more than meat, unabashedly stripped of all humanity. Rather than looking down upon the people who abuse sex workers, sex workers fall prey to society’s shame and contempt. The role played by the sex worker in this act contrasts child-like innocence with outright references to sexuality. This woman, however, gets her revenge by setting her man’s abode ablaze.

The next monologue brings a bone-chilling rape incident to life. With tattered clothes and heels in hand, the rape victim recreates “that night”, plagued by darkness and silenced physically and mentally by the barbaric act. From losing complete control to being ripped of her sanity, the incident has made her feel guilt and remorse. The society metaphorically stamps the words “rape victim” onto her forehead – her body a waking reminder of the rape. The mechanical process of labelling constricts women ruthlessly yet again.

The final monologue lit up the show with a role many women can relate to. The perky character represents modern women tirelessly going about the grind – a mother shuffling between home and work duties, tending to her infant and dealing with her husband. Though the chaos has left her in a confused state of mind with disturbed nights, her love for people keeps her going. The monologue shows the gruesome turntable women are turned into, their sole purpose being to obey and please.

Women on the Verge does justice to portraying male domination and highlighting the importance of women needing to speak up to counteract mistreatment. Women from all backgrounds and professions continue to be marked as objects that are meant to merely gratify wants. The play stresses on the pressing need to break from the status quo of adhering silently, and pushes people into rebelling tirelessly.

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