Review: Patricia Gets Ready (For a Date With the Man That Used to Hit Her) (Pleasance at the EICC)
Updated: Jun 1, 2022
We’ve all imagined chance encounters with people we have an urge to confront. We imagine in the shower, in the car, before we go to sleep the kind of devastating things we would say if we could. In Patricia Gets Ready (For a Date With the Man That Used to Hit Her), written by Martha Watson Allpress and starring Angelina Chudi, the eponymous Patricia gets her chance when she bumps into her abusive ex. But instead of delivering her crushing speech as intended, she is persuaded to go on a date with him. As the title suggests, this is a play about watching her prepare, deciding if she even wants to go, and telling us about her experiences.
Patricia re-enacts their meeting humorously and goes through potential outfits as she strives to look “unattainably hot” in preparation for her date. We see her at her most confident, convincing herself of her own capability and power, before that façade is broken. Chudi’s performance is layered and subtle; for every time she says something sassy, funny, or insightful, it is followed up with something that pops her self-esteem. For example, telling the audience that we would like her mum better than her because she’s “softer”, at which point Chudi seems to visibly close in on herself.
The strongest theme of Patricia Gets Ready is how it approaches the subject of feminism, empowerment, and independence. We can see traces of the socialite she used to be, and the shame she feels about her abuse. Shame for staying as long as she did, for not fighting back, even though she knows logically none of that is her fault. It questions the feminist imagery we are meant to embrace, the idealised woman who would never allow herself to be overpowered by a man, versus the reality of domestic abuse and trauma. Impressive as the Allpress’ script is, with its flecks of humour among the pathos, it is Chudi's performance where these best nuances are found.
The second half of the performance is less about storytelling, and more characterised by Patricia’s reluctance to talk about her abuse. It is filled with lines about how you don’t stop loving someone even when they are abusive, and how painful it is to admit your situation to your loved ones. It is powerful writing, but broad. It is fitting that Patricia can’t and won’t share anything about the relationship in great detail. Patricia Gets Ready refuses to cater to trauma porn and instead leans into its atmosphere of intimacy, which is achieved by treating the audience as though she is talking to a friend. She can confide in us but still doesn’t feel comfortable reminiscing on details. It’s a clever and very affecting approach, but it feels as though there is a piece missing between her flirtatious first encounter and the first hits. As an audience, we are drawn in by the character of Patricia, but not given the opportunity to be drawn in by her story as much.
The final moments, in which she goes over the renewed speech she plans to hurl at her abuser, confirm that the play is much more about Patricia’s present than it is about her past. It is a play about a character who craves forgiveness and understanding despite being the victim herself. It is a play about a character who is so determined to prove how much better off she is now, that she does herself more harm in failing to live up to her own expectations. Patricia Gets Ready may be simple in premise, but Allpress’ emotional writing and Chudi's vulnerable performance are what makes it stand out. Four stars.
Whispers from the Crowd:
We’ve seen a few heavy shows this fringe. I almost felt empty inside.
I would tell everyone to see it.