You might have made a mistake. You slip your keys between your knuckles anyway. It might never happen. But it might.
Yet it does happen, perhaps not to you but it happens too often to be ignored. Might Never Happen is a collaborative work from the Dolls Eye Theatre company and is premiering at the Kings Head Theatre.
The topic is aspects and perspectives of street harassment. The material is evocative, sensitive and confronting. Rather than being a play with a through narrative, Might Never Happen is a series of episodes collected by the company and based on real life experiences. Fellow collaborators, Dr Fiona Vera-Gray and Dr Maria Garner, have researched the topic extensively in their individual areas of speciality.
The piece as a whole has been carefully crafted to ebb and flow between confronting scenes and those presenting other aspects of the topic in a lighter tone. This involves humorous monologues, comedic sketches, poetry and singing. It manages to be entertaining without ever dropping the ball on the sobriety behind the laughter.
The most distressing scenario involves the full cast of six and is set at night on a homeward bound bus. A man enters and chooses a seat next to a single woman. He begins to chat with her. From this easygoing start, the content escalates to a point that causes discomfort not only to the woman but also to the passenger witnesses. This scene is should provoke consternation in the audience, forcing them to question their own reactions should they be placed in similar circumstances.
The actors are excellent and prove their versatility across the wide styles of theatre used. Their strength ensures the success of this scene, as well as the many other vignettes.
Catherine Deevy and Kirsty Osmon open the show with a witty duologue that, at first, appears to be a pre-show announcement. This is followed up by Osmon in a monologue that is beautifully timed and effective. Deevy has a particularly lovely scene in which she explains facts to her baby daughter.
Danielle Nott handles several scenes with wit and grace. She and Paul Matania play a scene as a married couple, a scene that emphasises the need for education on the position and responsibilities of men in contemporary society. He is clueless as to why some of his long held attitudes and practices concerning women are found to be offensive by his wife.
In one of her roles, Vicki Welles plays the woman in the bus scene. She clearly shows the changes in her demeanour brought about by the unwanted attentions of the man. In a later scene, Welles shows her comedic timing as a member of a television chat show panel.
Both men in the cast add a necessary dimension to the tales. As the offensive man in the bus scene, Ashley Sean Cook courageously tackles this unsympathetic character without overplaying it. Paul Matania tackles the part of the bystander who, with trepidation, stands up to defend the woman and he does so with warmth and sincerity.
Director Amy Ewbank has delicately tuned the many aspects of the show to present a balanced, meaningful and entertaining whole. Ewbank uses the space as best as possible with few props and little room to manoeuvre. The task is made more difficult with the set of another production at the theatre taking up a lot of the stage. Whilst every attempt has been made to stage the show for all seats there is a lot of time that sight lines are severely compromised.
All the design elements were effective and supported the piece. Rajiv Pattani designed the lights, taking good advantage of the settings that were available to him. The sound design was interesting with ambient sound providing a subtle extra layer to the performance.
There is little in the way of set but the few pieces, like the stools provided by designer Cindy Lin, are all that is needed to change the scene. The costuming was more elaborate and clearly defined the characters.
After last night’s performance there was a question and answer session with the collaborators and invited academics, politicians and community experts. It was well run and informative and rounded out the experience well.
Whilst this play does not seek to offer a solution to the problems it highlights, it does that highlighting vividly. When women alter their habits and lifestyles in response to unacceptable behaviour and threats of violence that leave them vulnerable, it is clearly time for action to be taken.
Might Never Happen is informative and theatrically sound and some would say compulsory viewing. It is definitely worth seeing.