Review: She/Her (Assembly George Square Studios)
A collection of monologues that is less than the sum of its parts
This is a show about womanhood, telling women’s stories, with a title based on traditionally female pronouns. So why is the name floating around the theatre a man’s? She/Her is produced by Succession star Brian Cox and his wife Nicole Ansari-Cox, directed by Ansari-Cox, and, er, written by Ansari-Cox. But celebrity status aside, what She/Her is striving for is a grounded and human sharing of stories and musical performances.
And there are some real highlights amongst them. Mairi Campbell tells the audience a “returning” story; of losing herself to addiction and seeking to reconnect with her artistic side after her children had moved out. It is earnestly told and is all the more important given we rarely hear vulnerable stories like this from an older woman. The highlight of the performance is the contribution from musician Callie Rose Petal, whose Regina-Spector-Esque vocals are spine-tingling.
Other parts are less successful. Ada Grace Francis, daughter of Campbell, tells a story of adulting and getting her driver’s licence that feels less like an urgent story that needs to be told, and more like the product of simply being asked to write a monologue. There are also cheesy phrases like “the theatre of life” that crop up from the American contingent of the cast, and there is a healthy dose of self-indulgence, for example the fact that the performance immediately kicks off with…Campbell promoting her other show.
Even so, each performance and monologue is enjoyable in one way or another, and they each share a tone of easy-going reminiscence. Unfortunately, that tone is the only thing they all have in common. One would think that the common theme would be that they are all about womanhood, but it's a topic that is only explicitly brought up in a couple of the monologues. It is a shame since the value of a discussion of womanhood that includes black and trans voices cannot be overstated. Perhaps then they will be connected by the use of multimedia that the performance advertises? Not so much. Some dreary monochromatic footage of rocks and roads does not a multimedia performance make. The performers are, at least, all speaking in their own voices, as Ansari-Cox intended, but there is nothing organic about the way they have been collected and arranged. It is all the more confusing that the promotional material proudly boasts that the performance is “the first full-length play by Nicole Ansari-Cox” when it is actually a collection of monologues and she only wrote one of them.
She/Her isn’t multimedia, it isn’t about womanhood, it isn’t a play, and it isn’t really by Nicole Ansari-Cox. It reads like the product of bored rich people wanting to produce something “meaningful”. It has a smugness about it that it hasn’t done enough to earn. But in spite of that, the individual monologues do hold value. They are personal, sometimes moving, and often funny. She/Her is essentially an opportunity to see some talented performers and storytellers share some of their writing and music in an understated way. If only they said that in the first place. Three stars.
Whispers from the Crowd: "I cried a little. It was a very honest depiction of womanhood."
She/Her will run at Assembly George Square Studios in Studio One until August 29th
Photo Credit: Elke Rosthal