Friday, 24 April 2015

Theatre review: Scarlet

Sam H. Freeman's Scarlet could be called a monologue for four actors: Lucy Kilpatrick, Jade Ogugua, Heida Reed and Asha Reid all play Scarlet, a girl who's always enjoyed sex and a couple of years into her university course has already chalked up lovers in double figures. The four women's costumes and attitudes suggest slightly different aspects to her personality - Reed's Scarlet is slightly prim and proper, in a 1940s-inspired outfit, Reid's a no-nonsense punky one, and the other two very much 21st century girls in more revealing outfits - but they are all pretty much in sync with each other, presenting Scarlet as a confident and fun woman with a united front. Things get a lot more out of her control though after a fellow student lies about sleeping with her, and she calls him out on it, inadvertently making him a laughing stock.

In revenge, he catches her drunk at a party on video, revealing her sexual history among other things. When the clip's shared online she gets a reputation as the college bike, damaging both her work and her relationships irrevocably.

There's moments of vicious violence and abuse in Scarlet, but perhaps the most shocking aspect for me was the revelation at the beginning of the second act of just how far the character's been willing to go to escape a scandal that wasn't of her making. Joe Hufton's production, on Lydia Denno's club-like set, sees the actors go through a fast-paced ride through multiple characters and spiraling events.

But more interesting than the variety of external characters is the way the unity between the four Scarlets fractures when she tries to become someone she's not - after the interval all but Reid's punky version have changed to generic, demure outfits, and the one remaining original version is pushed to the back of her mind. It's an interesting, often blackly comic take on a serious gender inequality, and a strong full-length debut from Freeman, who even manages to make anticlimax work in his favour - the way the interval cliffhanger plays out demonstrating the different standards men and women are held up to.

Scarlet by Sam H. Freeman is booking until the 9th of May at Southwark Playhouse's Little Theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes including interval.

NB: Strobe lighting is used a lot.

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