The Hysteria Festival is currently taking place at Birmingham’s historic Old Rep Theatre. This is a festival dedicated to the the work of women, a women led celebration of the arts, showcasing new talent, new works and creativity from all over the UK, including stand up comedy, theatre works and adaptations. Monday night saw two very different pieces of theatre, ‘Whispers’ from Mirror of Space Theatre, and ‘Butchered’ by Expial Atrocious, and I was very lucky to be in the audience to enjoy two remarkable pieces of theatre.
Whispers by Mirror of Space Theatre
Whispers is a truly haunting piece of theatre, one which lingers in the mind long after it has finished. A take on the Victorian tradition of the Penny Dreadful, it is a one women act (Pat Zajac) that tells the tragic tale of PM Jones, stuck in a loveless marriage with an abusive, adulterous husband. She finds love with another, but due to the hypocritical morals of the day, she is petrified of being labelled as an adulterous woman, who could be submitted to the worst treatment and sexual assaults at the hands of the police. Due to this, it is actually preferable to murder the husband, rather than just leave him, and this is what PM Jones does, although she is then betrayed on all sides by those she thinks will always be there for her.
It is a brutal, compelling performance of a women unravelling in the madness of a situation where murder, and its consequences, is actually deemed less horrific than being labelled for adultery – that is, if you are a woman of course.
Expial Atrocious Presents Butchered
Butchered is a powerful, often horrific, but also often funny piece of theatre. Master Sausage works in a dark, basement kitchen creating sausages for the powers that be upstairs, forgetting there was ever a life outside that basement, each day is the same. But when Apprentice arrives on the scene, full of ideas of how things can be changed and improved, and full of dreams of a different future, the secrets of the kitchen, and what is actually going on, threaten to tumble out. The relationships in the kitchen unravel in sheer brutality and violence, leading to an horrific denouement that you just might want to watch through your (sausage) fingers.
Expial Atrocious (Nic Lawton and Ez Holland)are just brilliant, loud, vibrant, funny and frightening in equal parts, and totally unforgettable. This is Sweeney Todd for the 21st Century, and I loved it.
Find out about the Hysteria Festival here.