Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Peeling

Graeae Theatre , Edinburgh Fringe 2003 - ASSEMBLY (VENUE 3) , August-23-03
SOMETHING strange happened to the lives of western women in the late 20th century. On one hand, we gained a level of control over our own bodies unprecedented in human history. On the other, society often remained ambivalent about the morality of those new rights; so that women have often found themselves exercising their new freedoms alone and in secret, and carrying huge solitary burdens of responsibility and guilt for the rest of their lives.

It’s because it seeks to break that silence and to link the experience of modern woman to thousands of years of storytelling about the appalling decisions mothers sometimes have to make that this latest show from Graeae - a revival of a 2001 play written for the company by Kaite O’Reilly - is such a powerful and important piece of work.

The characters are three actresses with disabilities, all playing the Chorus in a Greek tragedy, which tells horrific tales of war and of mothers sacrificing their own children to prevent them from meeting a worse end. Meanwhile, in the between-scenes chat, it slowly emerges that each of these women has faced her own blood-choices on the reproductive battlefield; and that one of them, unexpectedly pregnant, is facing the toughest of all decisions.

Peeling is not a perfect piece of theatre; some of the video images of war thrown up behind the actors have become empty visual clichés, and the script’s jokey introductory phase - all bitchy thespian back-biting - lasts far too long. But, given a spookily eye-catching design, a superb central performance from Sophie Partridge as pregnant Coral, coupled with the sheer strength and radicalism of the original idea behind the play, Peeling survives some shaky moments to become a brave, moving and - for a whole generation of women - quietly ground-breaking show.

Reviewed by: Joyce McMillan : The Scotsman

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