Sold and Flushed: An unusual but worthy Finsbury Park double bill
- Credit: David Fisher
Two plays written by women set in starkly different contexts are on show in a Park Theatre double bill until 6 November.
First up is Catherine Cranfield’s Flushed, which follows sisters Marnie and Jen (acted by Elizabeth Hammerton and Iona Champain) as Marnie is diagnosed with premature menopause at 25, a condition affecting 1 per cent of women under 45 (and highlighted powerfully by Harriet Gibsone in her Guardian column this year).
The intimacy of Jen and Marnie’s story, but also their saving playfulness, is evoked immediately with the bathroom set: the only props on stage are two toilets and a pink light feature on the wall saying “toilets”.
It could seem commonplace to use a women’s toilet for a female relationship given the overused trope about women going to the bathroom together, and the prevalence of pink does instinctively scream conventional femininity, while some lines also occasionally veer towards cliché, particularly in the serious scenes.
Yet Flushed works, with a dialogue cleverly capturing cultural references and millennial-speak and a set allowing an analysis of taboos: it tackles not only menopause, but also wittily covers menstruation, women’s anatomy and sex.
What really struck me in Flushed, moreover, was the perceptive portrayal of siblinghood - a fraught dynamic that too often goes wrong as adults get older and life gets complicated, but brings such comfort to those lucky enough to maintain loving familial relations.
Following this in the double bill comes Sold, a piece written by its star, Amantha Edmead, about the life of Mary Prince - a Bermudian woman born into slavery in 1788 who went on to become the first Black woman to have an autobiography published in the UK and the first woman to present an anti-slavery petition to Parliament.
Edmead is accompanied by drummer and performer, Angie Amra Anderson. Anderson adds intensity through percussion and song to the brilliant versatile acting of Edmead who plays not only Mary, but also over five other characters.
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Perhaps the most powerful part is the moment when the two women breach the fourth wall to sing gospel music with the audience to mark Mary’s conversion to Christianity. This worked so well it is a shame there was not more audience inclusion in the play.
Though at times the narrative felt somewhat rushed, Sold is an impressive and varied work of historical theatre, bringing due prominence to the story of Mary Prince during Black History Month.