A piece of new writing about street harassment is (unfortunately) not going to strike everyone as must-see Monday night theatre, and yet the house was full for Doll’s Eye Theatre’s latest show at The King’s Head. Whether seeking fresh perspectives on gender in public space or wanting to hear Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, in the debate afterwards, I was refreshingly surprised by the gender and age balance in the room. Having seen the show, this popularity stands testament to Doll’s Eye’s special ability to bring comedy and universal appeal to difficult and marginalised subjects.
Structured in a set of short, unrelated sketches, Doll’s Eye Theatre managed to present the whole range of street harassment in just over one hour – as they promise, we get the full experience from ‘the ridiculous to the terrifying’. It is both ridiculous and terrifying that street harassment is still an every day feature of our modern society – a recent survey found that 85% of young women in London have experienced it. The magic of Might Never Happen is that it plays out familiar scenes, like the uncomfortable one-sided conversation with a persistent stranger on a bus, and yet allows us to observe from all angles in a way that is impossible in subjective every day life.
Cast member Ashley Sean Cooke, as the principle aggressor, does a masterful job of being casually and sometimes unconsciously menacing. It can’t be easy having to play seven different shades of misogynist, but each of his characters are subtly nuanced and play out distinct types of street harasser; the persistent drunk, the misguided guy on the pull, the person who just doesn’t know how to help. These layers of detail are emblematic of Doll’s Eye’s wider approach to this infinitely faceted topic. Even just writing this review I feel the difficulty and pressure to balance as many opinions as possible without offending someone, so I doff my cap to Doll’s Eye who manage to negotiate their narratives with a stunning ability to allow each voice it’s turn, without blandifying or losing the overall message of the play.
Probably the most widely relatable scene showed a couple (Danielle Nott and Paul Matania) discussing the subtleties of approaching strangers with compliments, and how this is perceived by both sides. We follow the woman’s reaction to learning that her boyfriend is a type of street harasser, who excuses his own behaviour, and we are forced to ask ourselves if he is really part of the problem at all. This self-questioning is a constant element of our reaction to the play, but far from being exhausting, it flows naturally around lighter moments of genuine (and un-gendered) comedy.
Humour unexpectedly abounds in Might Never Happen – Doll’s Eye find the cracks in cringing, anger-inducing moments to dial back the serious tone, and you end up feeling rather oxymoronic at both laughing and despairing in equal measures. I wish that some central story line was present to tie the stand alone scenes together; the message would have been more powerful with some sort of overall narrative structure. Yet, I do understand why these choices were made; in reflection of the material, there is often no neat and concise ending to street harassment. Victims are often lost for words, or the situation robs them of the opportunity to conclude. The ramifications of street harassment are also never-ending, you don’t just ‘get over’ things, they stick around, and in a considerate parallel, Dolls Eye allow you to continue processing and thinking without a sense of resolution. As an observer, in its small part, this puts you into the shoes of a victim.
CAST AND CREW
Cast – Ashley Sean Cook, Catherine Deevy, Paul Matania, Danielle Nott, Kirsty Osmon and Vicki Welles
Director – Amy Ewbank
Producer – Caley Powell
Lighting Designer – Rajiv Pattani
Set and Costume Designer – Cindy Lin
Sound Designer – Ruth Sullivan
Stage Manager – Erin Whiley
Collaborators – Dr Fiona Vera-Gray and Dr Maria Garner
Might Never Happen continues its run at The Kings Head Theatre until 16th May, with performances on the 8th, 9th, 15th and 16th May. On Sunday 8th May there will be a post performance workshop from anti street harassment organisation Hollaback London. To buy tickets for these performance, you can ring the box office on 0207 226 8561 or visit the website.