Review: Emotional Creature

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Emotional CreatureIn celebration of Woman’s Month and our National Woman’s Day, Emotional Creature has arrived in Cape Town at the Baxter Flipside Theatre. The latest play by multi­award winning playwright and activist Eve Ensler (best known for The Vagina Monologues), Emotional Creature is a collection of original monologues portraying the lives and minds of a host of teenage girls around the world.

The stage is bare except for a wide, shallow, semi­circle block, stuffed with teenage girl paraphernalia. Before the play even begins, Instagram images are flashed up on a large screen backdrop, typical items of interest to a teenage girl, from the shoes to the friends to random things that have caught the eye. Interspersed with these images are small messages ranging from poems to statistics, some of which are particularly challenging, for instance: ‘Research shows that girls doing sport are less likely to engage in risky sexual activity’. What does this imply? If you make your child play sport they won’t have sex? That sporty girls are less frisky? The audience is forced to think about the themes even before the show begins, even while modern songs celebrating women are playing in the background.

The back screen continues to be used to clever effect throughout, displaying ‘selfies’ and videos as they are being shot onstage. It also acts as a cue for each monologue, providing the name and the country of the next character to speak. At first the six girls cover familiar ground: peer pressure, group mentality and even teenage sex are discussed – areas of nostalgia for the older audience members and acute relevance for the younger ones. An ‘online’ forum chat on anorexia brings out all the smaller voices that can’t communicate without a barrier to hide behind. Successive monologes are connected by dance, poetry or song and as the play progresses the subjects discussed grow distinctly heavier in content.

The darkest, and thus the most memorable, is a heart­wrenching account of years as a sex slave in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It initially appears a warning ­ a list of mental tools to help a girl survive should she find herself in the same situation ­ yet as the list grows so we see the girl bloom with strength and triumph. Riven with poignancy, the tears pouring down the actress’s face are reflected throughout the audience.

This small local cast, directed by Jo Bonney and aided by dialect coach Fiona Ramsey, excel in multi-character portrayal with an impressive mastery of accents. Moreover the energy of these young actresses draws the audience into a tight grip that is not released until the last word.

By the end of the play, all the thoughts and questions in my mind had tripled. But they are questions necessary for growth, even for someone long past the teenage stage of life. It’d be interesting to know what would change in the men that see this play. The conversations sparked by Emotional Creature will last for along time to come.

Samantha Orange

Emotional Creature runs at the Baxter Flipside from 6 August until 16 August 2014. 80 mins, no interval.

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