Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸
Laura Shoebottom’s Blue Tights, Red Knickers and an ‘S’ on her Vest presented by Thematic Theatre is a personable, touching and intriguingly realistic dissection of the pressures surrounding anxiety. Way to shatter the stigma!
This witty monologue delivered by the writer herself, recounts the tribulations of Jenna, a young professional who is silently drowning as she tries to free herself from the solitude that is her own anxiety, a powerful and affecting reminder that it is okay to take off the costume every once in awhile. It follows her from the initial devastation of her friend David moving out – blaming it on Jenna’s condition, to the bullying she receives in her workplace, on to her coping sessions that seem to be getting her nowhere and to top it all off, to her unsympathetic mother and their endless phone conversations. Shoebottom’s writing is wonderfully raw and genuine, this, coupled with her enigmatic delivery, means the work has an instantaneously warm feeling. We can all find a bit of ourselves in Jenna.
The design collectively achieved by Chuma Emembolu, Daniel Foggo and Phil Matejtschuk is particularly invigorating. In the moments that Jenna’s anxiety is heightened and at its worst, the design beautifully reflects this. The volume of the sound increases as sound bites overlap, whilst the lighting harshly brightens, shining from a rig at the back of the stage directly into the audience, the effect of this is to recreate the overwhelming sensation that Jenna is feeling, desensitising and allowing the audience to share in it and experience the paralysis anxiety engenders. Furthermore, the sound throughout is particularly slick, the piece employing a series of voiceovers to manifest the various figures in Jenna’s life, from her phone conversations, to the voices inside her head. The staging is also wonderfully representative of Jenna’s character journey. The stage starts out with a cluttering of boxes scattered, the remnants of her move from the house she shared with David, him leaving being the point Jenna notes as her worst. As she battles through various obstacles from her lowest low toward a moment of clarity, she moves the boxes away, we physically see her struggle with her own demons and eventually carry them away. This is an inspired choice and wonderful direction from Liam Ashmead.
The only element holding this back is the format. The writing is gritty and strong, yet the piece employs present tense scenes intermittently amongst Jenna describing in the past tense, whilst occasionally acting as if she is in the present tense. Culminating in a confusing understanding of the concept of time within the work, as well as some of the genuine anguish being lost and coming across as melodramatic and exaggerated, which of course is far from the piece’s intent. The actions either need to happen in the present moment and Jenna comment using asides, (in kind of Fleabag-esque manner), or Jenna needs to wholeheartedly adopt the role of the storyteller and cleverly recount her tale. With a little work we are sure it wouldn’t be difficult for the narrative to be streamlined and clarified in this way.
To conclude, Blue Tights, Red Knickers and an ‘S’ on her Vest is a fun, enchanting, one-woman show with a lot of heart and a lot to say. Does it need work? Yes. But it’s still worth the watch? Yes. Pop down to the Lion and Unicorn to see it this week as part of Camden Fringe. Click here.
Laura Shoebottom (writer and Jenna)
Liam Ashmead (Director and David voice-over)
Georgia Richardson (Clare voice-over)
Natasha Calland (Trish voice-over)
Connor Maxwell (Tom voice-over)
Ela Yalçin (Mum voice-over)
Chuma Emembolu/Daniel Foggo (Lighting and Sound)
Phil Matejtschuk/Chuma Emembolu (Sound Designer)