100 years since the first sign of progress for women's suffrage and there is still so much more to accomplish. Natalie Cutler is incensed in Not Yet Suffragette. Daniel Perks reviews:

100 years ago, the Representation of the Peace Act 1918 gave some women the right to vote. But that is by far the end of the story. So Natalie Cutler is looking for ways to be a modern-day suffragette, to stand up for women’s rights across the globe. There are lots of issues to tackle – tampon tax, equal pay, changing your surname after marriage or the societal pressure to have children. Any promises to solving these things are empty, “Not Yet Suffragette”. It’s a powerful ending to a lukewarm production.

Not Yet Suffragette charts such a lack of progress since the First World War. Women played football and made munitions – then the men came home. Women worked in the factories and were expected to feel honoured that they were allowed to earn a living. Even the sexual proclivity of the 60s expected women to be silently obedient in the bedroom. Isn’t it time for a change?

Cutler’s underlying message is clear, but her characterisation is muddled. Scenes that highlight the decades are sparse on facts, marked only by the date on a newspaper or a magazine. It’s difficult to give accurate historical context in such a short space of time, but a stronger sense of direction may aid Cutler in conveying her message.

The strength of Not Yet Suffragette is when Cutler is herself, rather than trying to play other roles that bleed into each other and lack definition. The middle of this production may stray into TED talk or lecture territory, rather than a theatrical production, but Cutler exudes energy and passion through her words. Her sharp observations and tipped with acerbic wit, her frustration at the status quo immediately obvious by the delivery. And it lights a fire in the audience too – murmurs of agreement turn into fervent nods and applause upon realising the progress yet to be made.

In a potentially powerful climax, Cutler adapts “The Cell Block Tango” to highlight the women of El Salvador who are imprisoned for having miscarriages – abortions are banned in the country as they are considered aggravated murder. But this is a prime example of how Cutler’s powerful concepts are muted in their execution. The stories of these women are horrifying, unjust and shocking – they don’t require a choreographed routine, red lighting or jail bars to enhance their message.

Not Yet Suffragette has the beginnings of a poignant socio-political piece. But theatrically, it lacks direction and clout. The message has power enough here, it doesn’t need any complicated, distracting storytelling devices.

 

 

★★★☆☆

Not Yet Suffragette runs at Underbelly Bristo Square as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018 until 27 August 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.