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A Society (For the Cutting up of Men)

by on 2 February 2023

Man Management

A Society (For the Cutting up of Men)

by Daniel Carter

Network Theatre at Network Theatre, Waterloo until 5th February

Review by Heather Moulson

Boom!  The London Vault Festival has opened, and we are straight in with A Society (For the Cutting up of Men).  As the play opens, a vibrant bonhomie with eight women, dressed in eccentric costumes of Victorian skirts and hobnailed boots, promises a lively take on early feminist issues. 

This colourful beginning keeps the weighty piece flowing.  Genuine comic moments about dramatic music in books, and a backlash against chastity, work beautifully.   Young Victorian women question the role of men and a non-patriarchal society, and assert their determination to infiltrate the male world.    Adaptions of Virginia Woolf’s wry observations and of Valarie Solanas’ SCUM (the Society of Cutting up Men) manifesto is a great unconventional concept that verges on the true yet on the absurd.

The SCUM manifesto, which Solanas self-published in 1967, advocates destroying the male sex.   Valerie Solanas was an American radical feminist, perhaps best known for her attempted murder of artist Andy Warhol in 1968.

Carter’s play transforms Virginia Woolf to the sixties, where Solanas shoots Andy Warhol … and effectively.  But once that significant figure reveals herself, then the pace begins to limp. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t strong performances, with wit and genuine bonding within the eight women.  Terrific performances particularly include Clorinda, played by Linseigh Green, and Cassandra by Wendy Fisher.  However, one felt the journey through all the ten women’s stories, in admittedly short scenes, loses the focus.

Intelligently written and directed by Dan Carter, A Society’s thoughtful designs, the lighting by Alex Farrell and Bram Mulders sound, and especially Vasiliki Versousi’s idiosyncratic costumes, all comment wryly on the action.

Touching on science, hashtag girl boss, sexy dancing among other attributes, each one a significant issue, the topics are covered in sharp detail.  The tableau at the end, recreating the Victorian beginning, does work, but the ending could be sharper.   However, I’m rooting for it to shine at the Vault Festival as it is a sincere and gritty piece overall, with strong performances and moments of insight.

Heather Moulson, February 2023

Photography by Dom Thomson

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