Review: Freak, MAP Productions, 53two, Manchester
So much has been written about women from the male perspective that it’s hardly a surprise when things are misconstrued.
Freak shines a spotlight on the ever-present male gaze and highlights the effect such perceptions can have on women, including damaging their sense of self.
Anna Jordan’s piece, though unsettling at times, is never less than riveting. This production, directed by Simon Naylor, delivers many an emotional punch to the gut, as well as effectively managing to weave in some uplifting moments. The success of this balancing act is due in no small part to the two actresses featured, both fully committed to the uncompromising dialogue.
Essentially two parallel monologues, Freak offers us a glimpse into the lives of two young women, each troubled by a skewed view of what the world, and men in particular, expect from them.
Alexandra Maxwell provides a haunting portrayal of every ounce of brittle behind the bravado of Georgie, a 30-year-old woman reeling from the break-up of a relationship and the death of her father. These losses have further decimated her already fragile self-worth and she believes her only source of power is her sexuality. Her desperate need to regain some semblance of control forces her to veer spectacularly off the rails, and in seeking a new source of male validation, the hunter becomes the hunted with devastating results.
Stacey Harcourt brings an endearing wild-eyed wonder to 15-year-old Leah, expertly delivering the most graphic of material with uninhibited ease and charm. On the surface, this character’s story may seem less disturbing than Georgie’s but Leah’s naïve, media-fuelled expectations of her first sexual experience are just as unsettling. The ease with which any age can access online pornography is frightening. Warped reference points around sex and sexuality and what is classed as ‘normal’ has a negative effect on young people before they’ve experienced the real thing. It’s a thought-provoking point well made.
The script is smart and efficient, and even in the heavier sections, a tension relieving one-liner is never far away. Although a couple of the costume changes could be brisker, the 70-minute piece moves along at a steady pace and is never laboured, even at its darkest.
Freak doesn’t offer solutions. Instead, it concludes with the benefits gained when people simply talk to one other. Perhaps the pressure to conform can be reduced if we simply share a few of our battle scars?
Freak is showing at 53two until September 9, 2017. For more information or to book tickets, click here.
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