review

‘The Mikvah Project’: A Review

Applause bellowed from every pair of hands as the lights flashed on in The Orange Tree Theatre. I had just witnessed one of the four productions in this year’s Directors’ Festival hosted here, featuring emerging directors who have studied on the MA Theatre Directing course at the Orange Tree and St Mary’s University. And I think I got lucky; under Georgia Green’s direction, ’The Mikvah Project’ emerged victorious as a fresh, fierce and contemplative storytelling of love, boundaries, and faith.

At just an hour long, the play, written by Josh Azouz, firstly introduced us to our two players Avi and Eitan, and then to the Mikvah placed in the heart of the theatre’s intimate in-the-round space. This Mikvah, described by Avi, is a pool of water in which one ritually immerses in the Jewish faith. As Avi demonstrated; the water whooshed rhythmically, bathing and immersing the space…I was entranced. I could see every pair of eyes had locked on, as mine had, to this slow, perhaps even intimate act. It’s clear Georgia [Green] wanted this focus from the outset, highlighting the Mikvah’s importance both in faith, and the story, creating an interesting axis for the play to pivot around.

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We dived in with a series of rapid-fire monologues explaining Avi and Eitan’s differing life phases. Avi is settled, 35 and married, he loves his wife and they’re trying for a baby…something he’s trying to encourage by immersing in the Mikvah. Whereas Eitan, 17, is excitable, fiery and daydreaming at college and sneaking into clubs with his brother’s ID. Their paths cross every Friday at the Mikvah, each encounter bringing them emotionally, and later physically closer together, as they chat about family, relationships, their faith, and, of course, football.

Eitan, exuberantly played by Dylan Mason, is the dominant, coming-of-age force, pushing all available boundaries around him [I pray I wasn’t alone in experiencing flashbacks to memories of my sometimes obnoxious teenage self…]. Though cringing hard, it was easy to empathise with his pressures of family expectation, understanding his sexuality, and feeling, well, lonely. His energy and boyish naivety kept the feeling light however as he bounced around the Mikvah, coaxing and engaging Avi who, thoughtfully played by Robert Neumark Jones, seemed buoyed by Eitan, offering him the advice and guidance he’s seeking.

The pace of the play quickened after Eitan kisses Avi in the Mikvah one evening [I definitely gasped]. Though he was initially repulsed, it was gripping to watch Avi wrestle with his feelings; does he want this too? Does this change his feelings towards his wife and his faith? Is this just an early on-set mid-life crisis? Is it just…a crush?

You could feel a tangible change in the atmosphere of the theatre. The boundaries of their relationship had blurred and developed from familial, or confidantes, to something more. Despite the growing intensity, their developing relationship reached a head after Avi abandons a wild weekend away with an enamoured Eitan, returning home to find his wife pregnant – his Mikvah immersing had worked.

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Following the waining of Avi’s interest due to his joy of a growing new family, Dylan [Mason]’s expression of the hard fall that follows from a heady first love was exemplary. Holding the same concentration from the room as Avi’s earlier immersion, his performance was captivating, it felt raw and painful and encouraged further flashbacks of heartbreak I’m sure we all have. I would agree with The Orange Tree Theatre’s testimony here of “the audience wrapped around the players” for “close-up magic”. It was indeed magic.

The dissolution of their fling felt dramatic and short, and the end of the play seemed to come around quickly. Before I knew it, the last line “I feel nervous” was uttered by Eitan and the lights came up to the aforementioned and deserved applause.

But I wanted more.

I wanted to know if Avi’s feelings for Eitan were real and if Eitan’s were just a youthful crush or something more. I wanted to know what role their faith and the Mikvah would play if Avi and Eitan had pursued their relationship; has Avi succumbed to pressure from his community to stay remain with his wife? And so on and so on.

Ultimately, I think my need for answers and more time with these characters is a testament to a high-quality performance and fresh new direction and writing. A highlight, being Georgia Green’s use of the Mikvah as a physical focal point in the room; a constant reminder to the audience of how these two characters had been brought together, and also how they might be kept apart. ‘The Mikvah Project’ is definitely one to see, and Georgia Green is perhaps one to watch!

Four stars for The Mikvah Project.

Words by Helen Brake for Anthem Online
Photographs by Robert Day

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‘Beige Walls And Navy Sofas’: A Camden Fringe Review

Beige Walls And Navy Sofas played at Camden People’s Theatre 2nd – 3rd Aug as part of The Camden Fringe 2019. We previously reviewed this show when it debuted at Catford Fringe’s scratch night back in 2018, which you can read here.

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Last night I attended the performance at the Camden People’s Theatre as part of this year’s Camden Fringe. CPT is an intimate and welcoming venue that prides itself on giving a platform to shows that push boundaries and explore much-needed topics and voices; Beige Walls And Navy Sofas does just that.

As soon as Courtney McMahon enters stage everyone is intrigued. Although it is a solo performance, it is engaging from the offset and quickly feels like a privilege to be invited into this autobiographical tale. Beige Walls And Navy Sofas takes us on a journey through Courtney’s childhood as her mother becomes a foster carer, and the adjustments to suddenly having some brand new siblings to call family.

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Having lived with approximately 50 siblings in her lifetime, Courtney’s retelling of her experiences and the open and honest dialogue she creates, weaving a picture of the good alongside the challenging aspects of fostering, is a crucial one. It is one that’s told with humour, love, and a whole mix of emotions in between.

The snapshots of Courtney’s life are pieced together in an endearing, arresting way, and the 60-minute journey flies by so quickly that you don’t want it to end. I could have definitely watched more of this story, but at the same time, the show that Ghosted Ink have created is a fantastic way to start the conversation and raise awareness of experiences of fostering. Especially, from the siblings’ point of view, which is not something often represented at all. 

I was drawn to see this show because of my own experience of my family becoming foster carers when I was younger and thought it was brilliant that someone had made a performance piece about something that before now, I didn’t think anybody else could ever really “get.” Coping not just with living with new brothers and sisters, but also inevitably saying goodbye to them was something that I really struggled to articulate growing up, and still do. Yet here, watching Beige Walls And Navy Sofas, someone was standing in front of me doing just that.

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What the show did brilliantly was raise the point of loss. Loss is something that is overlooked in our perceptions of the care system in all different ways, and this show gives a platform to that. It also made me realise though, that even when those connected to foster care will have very similar experiences in some ways, we can never expect to know someone’s own unique pathways of loss.

Even though Beige Walls And Navy Sofas does not shy away from tackling these complex topics, it is still punctuated with many moments of light relief and genuine laughs.

The minimal props and set dressing supporting the world of the performance fit delightfully well, and capture some early 2000s nostalgia in working-class London perfectly. We easily transport ourselves to the family living room for TV dinners, Christmas, and fights over Bratz Dolls without question. Watching Courtney’s character cycling around on a pink kids bicycle, or talking to a Yorkshire pudding that’s meant to be her Nan’s dog is both amusing and entirely fitting. The way that more serious tones are balanced with comic moments is well placed and sincere, meaning that we enjoy every minute.

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I think that if you don’t know much about fostering then this show would be a really eye-opening experience from a lesser-voiced perspective. That said, even if you would just like to see a great play that makes you laugh, think, pull Christmas crackers and sing to George Michael (yes, really) then this production is a must-see.

Perhaps the most poignant part for me was toward the end of the show, when Courtney reveals a chart marking the growth of herself and all her siblings through the years, adorned with photographs and memories of all the brothers and sisters that have passed through her and her Mum’s house, and sat on those Navy Sofas with cups of tea, watching Saturday Night Takeaway. It really brings home that beyond all else, this is a show about experiencing family, but that acknowledges family in all its different shapes and sizes and confronts what it’s like to deal with those shapes and sizes changing.

Congratulations to Courtney and the Ghosted Ink crew on a moving and much-needed show. I’m excited to see this play continue to grow and am very much looking forward to seeing what the collective do next.

Five Stars for Beige Walls And Navy Sofas.

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Keep up to date with all things Ghosted Ink here:

Facebook: Ghosted Ink: Arts Collective
Twitter: @GhostedInk_Arts
Instagram: @ghostedink

You can visit https://www.fcwu.org.uk/ for information about the Foster Carers IWGB Union.

Credits:
Writer/Performer – Courtney McMahon
Director – Niamh Parker-Whitehead
Technical Manager & Designer – Lilly Woodford-Lewis
Stage Manager – Molly O’Niell
Assistant Stage Manager – Isabelle Leach
Set Design – Niamh Parker-Whitehead & Constance Price
Producer – Ghosted Ink: Arts Collective
Field Recordings – Sam Kemp & Catherine Hawthorn
Special thanks to Elizabeth Parker, Cerys Barker & Arnold Senoga

Words by Lauren Barnard for Anthem Online.
Images from Ghosted Ink.

‘Congratulations You B@$T@*D!’: Edinburgh Fringe Review

Showing from 20th – 25th Aug 2018 at Venue 36, The Perth Theatre @ theSpace on North Bridge Hilton Edinburgh Carlton Hotel, 19 North Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 2HE.

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Whether you’re a die-hard fringe goer, or you’ve just popped up for a weekend to see what it’s all about, there’s no doubt you’ll find something that’s up your street.
An explosion of veteran stand up comics, first time performers, scripted, unscripted, spoken word, silent movie; you name it, it’s probably at Fringe.

And whilst it can be great to immerse ourselves in the kind of shows we know and love, a lot of the beauty of Fringe comes from the unexpected. It comes from experiencing the unknown and choosing to see something you might not usually go for. So when I got the chance to see Congratulations You B@$T@*D, I decided to do exactly that.

A theatre piece created by South East London based Ghosted Ink, the up-and-coming art collective’s debut show sees Mia and Nick, two down on their luck writers, wondering if they should give up on their ambition. However, after one drunken night of creativity, they find they might just have cracked it.

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Congratulations You B@$T@*D delights the audience with its humour and witty dialogue from the outset. Brought expertly to life by both performers, creating recognisable characters we all know (or are) in our lives.

We meet the wonderful whirlwind of nuanced expletives that is Mia (Georgia Crowther) and the seemingly more logical and tempered Nick (Laurence Platt) just as their newest script has been rejected again. Their carefully crafted characters are instantly brought to life in a relationship familiar to us all. Two friends who in equal parts love, and are infuriated by, each other.

The first half of the performance builds the dynamic between the two friends wonderfully. Despite the piece only lasting 45 minutes, I felt as though these were people I was so familiar with; people who had struggled together but also experienced joy and hilarity with one another. I laughed with them, got angry when they did, was sad when they were.

The comic timing of Crowther is spectacular and the way both actors seem to effortlessly bounce off one another is incredibly enjoyable to watch. The intimate space, and minimal but carefully thought out set design works perfectly to set the atmosphere. As soon as I saw all the crumpled-up-uncrumpled-and-then-crumpled-again pieces of work discarded everywhere and the random array of ideas and inspiration pinned up on stage, I thought “yep, been there.”

I spent most of the beginning half of the piece belly laughing at Nick and Mia hurling raucous insults, drinking copious amounts of ‘Pan Juice’ and spouting sparks of creative genius as they try to invent the next best thing. Punctuated with music from the likes of Bowie and Kate Bush as they take turns to type the masterpiece, the phrase that immediately came to mind was the popular mantra of ‘Write drunk, edit sober’. Yet as the play progressed it became clear it was much more like ‘Write drunk, edit drunker’, and whilst this was fabulously funny to witness, the script is very much flipped as we come into the second half of the play.

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A poignant scene arises as the two characters disagree on what the next step should be. Nick laments that he’s sick of being an “artist” and is sick of how they live, scrabbling to make ends meet and waiting for it all to get better when it never seems to. A far cry from the drunken hilarity witnessed moments ago, it suddenly hits home the reality of trying to make it, of struggling to pay rent, of doubting your own ability. It’s here that I really appreciated the thoughtful writing. Platt conjures a well-observed depiction of young friends and creative relationships in today’s competitive world those of us in the arts can relate to all too well.

For a group’s first Fringe run, its a credit to them how well they take the audience on a hidden rollercoaster of unexpected emotion, and it’s far more than just a play about getting wasted (even though they get very wasted.)

Congratulations You B@$T@*D explores artistic integrity, success and what ‘making it’ can actually mean. Moreover, we see the ever poignant themes of friendship throughout; we see two people pushing and pulling to hold onto a changing relationship as the both of them try to find their footing in the creative world, without sacrificing their own morals.

Ghosted Ink’s first show is a very worthwhile watch that I’d highly recommend checking out if you’re at Fringe this year, where it’s running from the 20th -25th August. If not, you can keep up to date with all their creative ventures by following @ghostedink on Instagram, @Ghostedink_AC on Twitter or Ghosted Ink Arts Collective on Facebook as well as with #CYBFringe.

A well deserved FOUR STARS for Congratulations You B@$T@*D!

 

Words by Lauren Barnard for Anthem Online.
Images courtesy of Ghosted Ink.

‘Beige Walls & Navy Sofas’: A Review

I’ve never been to Edinburgh Fringe, hell, I haven’t even been to Edinburgh. I’d love to, but it’s not exactly cheap, but that’s the great thing about being in London. Since coming here, I’ve been able to experience theatre and stand up at local comedy nights and festivals. Most recently, I was invited along to see ‘Beige Walls & Navy Sofas’ at the Catford Fringe starring Anthem’s very own Courtney McMahon.

Beige Walls & Navy Sofas is an impressive debut piece from the Ghosted Ink arts collective featuring spoken word, karaoke and dancing. It aims to bring a story from a working class family into the light where it belongs, and it is lovely. Watching Beige Walls & Navy Sofas is an experience comparable to catching up with a friend you haven’t seen in years, or perhaps even better, meeting someone for the first time and learning about their life.

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In the lead, Courtney doesn’t take on a character that’s been made up or fictionalised; Courtney plays herself. She, along with the rest of the team at Ghosted Ink, take you by the hand and ask you to step inside for a moment, and to listen to one woman’s tale. I really appreciated this piece for such an emphasis on pure storytelling, yet simultaneously for not being afraid to get creative with it. The set design was simplicity at its finest with props evoking both laughter and sadness, yet never taking away from the story being told.

Courtney walks the audience through selected moments of her own childhood, working you through a set of themes that include loss, confusion and anger. We learn about her siblings and mum, and we experience as many highs as we do lows as she takes us on a trip down memory lane.

“Layers and layers and layers and layers of nostalgia” she yells from the floor of her childhood bedroom, and layers of nostalgia is exactly what Beige Walls is. I didn’t live this life, and there are aspects of her life I couldn’t even begin to understand having not experienced them myself, but the brilliance comes from just that word – nostalgia.

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Nostalgia means a remembrance of something that never was, so we have a habit of using it to refer to our childhoods when we think about the presents under the tree at Christmas or the simple games we used to play with friends. Courtney remembers these things hand in hand with fleeting moments of reality. She discusses the great and terrible moments of living with her sister and I laughed. I laughed because I understood and have shared a room with a sister. It’s small moments like this that transferred her very own and very personal nostalgia onto the audience. An audience who were only too grateful to join in and were laughing from start to finish.

Like all good theatre (in my wholly uneducated opinion), Beige Walls doesn’t keep you down for too long. Though there are several times of anger, disappointment and grief, it is not long before Courtney’s pink hair and glittery eyes are up again, singing Wham or dancing to The Ketchup Song.

The team at Ghosted Ink did an absolutely terrific job with Beige Walls, and created a totally new experience for me. It was a pleasure to sit down somewhere new for 45 minutes and to witness a life story play out in the way they have pulled this piece together.

Four stars for Beige Walls & Navy Sofas!

 

Words by Briony Brake for Anthem
Images courtesy of Ghosted Ink

You can stay in the loop with all things Ghosted Ink via the following links:
Instagram – @ghostedink
Twitter – @Ghostedink_Arts
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/GhostedInkArts 
Website – https://ghostedinktheatre.wixsite.com/ghostedinkac  (best viewed on desktop)

‘Little Eden’: A Review

In a world where reptilians rule and demand daily doses of blood from all of the earth’s citizens, Little Eden tells the story of Jim, an office worker happy to comply with the rules, but who slowly becomes aware that all he has been told about how the world works may be untrue. As secrets unravel, Jim’s safety and life as he knows it hang in the balance.

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The debut production from Neon Peach Theatre is full of slick performances and big characters that make for an enjoyable romp through this world. Although the world could do with being a bit more solidified, and the set up a bit clearer, the fact that there’s a yearning to know more about the world demonstrates that it’s an interesting one. But with a slightly off version of reality, without clarification of what exactly is going on, it can become hard to follow and properly appreciate when the rules of the world start to come undone.

13320957_10154059108736233_6691409396024720195_o[1]An ode to 50’s sci-fi B-movies, Little Eden’s set, sound, and lighting design perfectly encapsulate this little pocket of cinematic history. Although this is a genre rife with joke possibilities, there was definitely the opportunity for more of this within the piece; the set-up is so rich, I was desperate for more gags and over-the-top self-awareness.

Liam Farmer gives a lovely performance as ‘The Vicar’, who narrates the entire show and is bombastic and incredibly fun to watch. Having a narrator on stage continuously can be a difficult thing to balance with the action of a show, but Neon Peach manage it perfectly. A special mention should also go out to Sophie Miller De Vega whose performance as the local nurse never becomes too ‘bimbo’, or dull, but continues to be funny despite her high-heel, pinned-up-hair, white-coat stock character.13316950_10154059108191233_8984799620704698462_o[1]In a small studio space like Camden People’s Theatre, it can be hard to visually engineer a whole world, but the transitions between different spaces and the way that the narrator interplays between it all is one of the strongest facets of the piece.

A work in progress that needs just needs a bit more of everything, Little Eden has potential, strong performances, and most of all, it’s proper good fun.

 

Here’s how to follow Neon Peach Theatre on social media:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/neonpeachtheatre/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NeonPeachTheatre/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NeonPeachInc

 

Words by Sian Brett
Images by Jon Lee
 

 

‘Watermelon’: A Review

“It’s okay if the love of your life is your best friend”

Last Sunday night I had the absolute pleasure of watching Box Room Theatre’s production of ‘Watermelon’ at the Hen and Chickens Theatre in London, as part of the Camden Fringe. The play was written by Georgia Green and takes a new and exciting look at the role of female friendships in modern life. Quite simply, Watermelon follows two girls named Abbie (Alexandra Proudfoot) and Zoe (Grace Hudson) on a night out, and a boy they bring home named Joe (Henry Taylor). Yet in just 55 minutes, it manages to introduce so many different layers and subtle hints at a wider life I desperately wanted to know. 

In case you hadn’t guessed, I loved Watermelon (and I don’t even like the fruit). The piece was exciting and dynamic, and ultimately showed the immense skill of Box Room Theatre in all aspects, particularly in the writing, and acting that came from Abbie, Zoe and Joe.

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To me, it felt like a case study of sorts on all the different relationships we have. The cast of Watermelon portrayed fantastic chemistry but were equally all able to hold their own in scenes. A relationship between a girl and the stranger trying to sleep with their best friend is one I hadn’t seen before, but thoroughly enjoyed; the sharp dialogue between the two was constant and entertaining. 

One thing I found most interesting was how it showed the friendship between Abbie and Zoe. A lot of things they showed, I had never experienced with my female friends such as taking boys home or discussing sex lives, but then there were so many things I had experienced a hundred times over, like the classic boy talks or even facial hair bleaching… It got me thinking about how no one female friendship is really the same, and how lovely that is.

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Watermelon is a beautifully open piece of theatre that takes the audience’s hand and invites them to share these experiences. Friendships are complex and can involve so much worry, and so to have a piece of theatre normalise that in front of my very eyes was comforting. 

Although very lively and, at times, laugh out loud funny, the piece also enters into some intense scenes, and some equally tranquil ones too. Fear and paranoia come into play when Abbie’s character goes missing in the night, and the relationship between Zoe and Joe develops immensely through the next half an hour of the play. They took a little slice of everyday reality and gave it so much life and depth; the audience is thrown into the drama with no warning, and it allows you to experience a great deal more emotion whichever way it swings.

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In the above photo, you can see one of my favourite scenes of the play. The team at Box Room have a huge imagination but are clever in their delivery. This simple use of fairy lights and music gave such intelligent lightness to the personal drama Zoe’s character was going through. I genuinely thought about the light sequences for the whole week after, I loved it that much.

Watermelon is an excellent example of young new writing that we should be paying attention to in the theatre. A simplistic but secretly challenging piece that is dotted with feminist quandaries most of us face on a regular basis (but perhaps aren’t as brave as Zoe when it comes to resolution). There’s so much to discover and explore that it’s hard not to love.

Four Stars for Watermelon!

 

You can follow Box Room Theatre on social media, and keep up to date with all the lovely events they host (enough to satisfy all your comedy and theatre needs)!

Words by Briony Brake
Images from Box Room Theatre

Wonder Woman: The Marketing, The Film & The Future

Wonder Woman came out in the UK on the 1st June, and although it’s still showing a few cinemas nationwide (if you missed out, don’t forget to check out independent cinemas who show films later), it’s generally on it’s way out until we see it next on DVD. Thankfully, a lot of people saw it making it a whopping £173m in its opening weekend, meaning Patty Jenkins now holds the record for the biggest US opening by a female director. 

I have a lot I’ve wanted to say about multiple aspects of the film, including a review itself, as well as how much I struggled with some of the marketing, and ultimately what it all means for the future. So make haste, there’s so much to discuss.

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I should also mention that this article is one part bad news, two parts good, and I’m going to start with the bad things. The way this film was pushed toward a female audience in its partnerships and targeted posts absolutely reeks of a room mostly full of men, all trying to work out how to market superheroes to women. YES I GET IT, SHE IS A WOMAN. You do not need to market her as a woman to me, a woman. You also do not need to market this superhero film any differently to how you market superhero films with men in. Women already watch superhero films, and go to the cinema just as much as men. Just get on with marketing a Wonder Woman film that we have all been waiting for, and show loads of kick-ass scenes and cool scenic shots from her homeland and we’re good to go.

Before I go off on a fully fledged rant, here’s a bit of an idea about the kind of marketing they did for this film. Take it in, and think about it. 

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Wonder Woman is one of the most bad-ass female characters ever, but gals let’s get together and have a girly night and go on a spa day!!! Let’s go see that mega babe, what a stunner that Diana. Please, stop trying to market her to women like we are an alien species.

Superhero films are all marketed pretty much the same way every time, unless they’re female superheroes. I love Wonder Woman as a character, and I always have. I also love pink, and am a bit girly, and being a human being I am capable of being and liking both. The point isn’t that you can’t be both, it’s that in the marketing campaigns for this film (including a free lipstick with your lady’s razor!), it was suggested that despite Diana being a superhero trying to save the planet, we still somehow see women as one thing. It’s very generic, and that’s a tad insulting, really.

Wonder Woman is Amazonian, and I’m pretty sure they don’t shave their legs or plan spa trips to Santorini (because they’re too busy shooting arrows at Nazis while they fly through the air).

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The two good parts begin now, and they will try their hardest to be brief.

The film was excellent. The Amazonian women were so damn cool, and so was Diana. I recently read an article praising the fact that when Diana jumps and runs and lands, her thighs jiggle. It’s very simple things that women have wanted in film for ever, and we’re finally getting them, and it’s finally happening, and I can’t help but think after all this time, was it really so hard?

Wonder Woman is a great film that genuinely has a superhero lead; it isn’t just a soppy romance, or an action-less female superhero flick. I felt so great watching it, I honestly was so happy at all the female characters whooping ass, at one point I nearly cried. 

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Most importantly with anything of this nature, is its consequences, or rather what it means for the future. The female director of a female-led superhero film holds a box office record, and fought off some major summer blockbusters like The Mummy simultaneously. This, plus the thigh-jiggling suggests more positive things in the future for women in films, and improvement in genres like action, horror and so on.

The only negative thing looking forward (the only big negative thing) is still the way we believe that women don’t watch superhero films, or scifi, or horror (despite the fact that sci-fi was invented by a woman), and as a result, the marketing and advertising done on films like this are still really crap. The next time they release a female-led action film or superhero film, I hope we can see similar publicity to male-led films in the same genres. 

Swings and roundabouts, am I right?

What did you think of Wonder Woman? Let us know, and feel free to tell Briony to stop ranting on here (I’m so sorry), and make sure you catch up with other great female led films coming out this year such as Raw, The Beguiled and Atomic Blonde.

 

Words by Briony Brake
Images by Warner Bros Pictures and Odeon Cinemas