Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Anam Theatre, 'Low Level Panic': Everyday Sexism

Claire McIntyre's Low Level Panic debuted in 1988. Anam's production has us consider how sexism has changed since.

The New Theatre
Jul 15-19

I don't have time to do a full review of Low Level Panic.

Debuted in 1988, British playwright Clare McIntyre's play is set in a bathroom where three women consider the omnipresence of pornography and female objectification they feel in their lives.

From the moment the male stagehands dismantle Róisín O'Toole's artful set, Justin Martin's staging never lets up a domineering gaze onto these women's lives. The sexually-infatuated Jo (Eimear Kilmartin) initially seems empowered but eventually succumbs to weight pressures and scrutinises her body. More traumatised is Mary (Sarah O'Toole), who still reels from a sexual assault from her past. Most composed is Celia (Aoife Martyn) but as she rushes to answer the door to an impatient beau, you'd wonder if she is about to stumble into danger.

Anam's production is laden with modern references, making concentrated use of smart phones and references to last year's 'Slane Girl' controversy.

It has its bad habits. Martin's direction can be fussy (overcrowding the stage with 18 actors at one point). Kilmartin swaggers like a comedienne and sometimes her affect is hammy, while Sarah O'Toole's considered turn doesn't fully chart her character's psychological damage.

However, it's a gutsy and political move by O'Toole's Anam company, with moments that are disarming. After a smutty exchange about nudity and sex, the naturalism of the scene melts away with a type of  Michael Chekov-inspired movement that illustrates two women's inner selves. Despite societal grievances, the truth is they are beautiful.

What did everybody else think?

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