As we entered the space, the performers were already onstage, greeting us with big smiles and small, repetitive movement sequences. A bare floor, static lights, microphone stands and clothes were scattered around. I was hesitant. It was starting to look like a girly sleepover instead of the dark, ‘distressing’ themes promised.
The women introduce each other with sweet, personal anecdotes. It appears they really have been friends since they met in a dance class at 10 years old. Their chemistry was clear from the offset, showing that this was a space of support and healing of the sort only found within female friendships.
It isn’t long before this loving atmosphere turns dark. The lights dim and we are asked to close our eyes as Lydia Higginson details her violent sexual assault. She chooses to focus on certain details over others: what she was wearing, instead of the country where this assault took place, or what her attackers looked like. Together the women howl into the darkness that almost turns into a battle cry. Standing in a line, the friends comfort each other with rhythmic touching over bare skin. It was hard not to be moved.
But Lydia needs to grieve, despite telling her friends she is ‘fine.’ She bends over her sewing machine and draws further and further into herself. She creates costumes for a play that doesn’t exist. This is when Josie Dale-Jones, theatre-maker, steps in. The women wear Lydia’s stunningly intricate costumes, and showcase their different talents. Nobahar Mahdavi sings her haunting songs into the mic, stylised like Lana Del Rey but with the vocal prowess of Paloma Faith. Olivia Norris dances throughout the space with the ferocious but kooky style of the KENZO World perfume ad. Dale Jones speaks directly to us in a confusing but lovable stand-up routine.
At times weird, avant-garde and subversive, the unique styles mix together as the dizzying music swells. There is a constant build of repetitive movement and sound and the audience prepares themselves for a crescendo. Instead, out of breath, the girls turn to Adams and ask ‘Is it helping?’ Adams tells us she ‘does not want to talk about getting stripped anymore’ but instead wants to talk about ‘getting dressed instead.’ She does not cry, there is no added dramatics. Her voice is honest and open.
The timing of the piece is perfect. Slow and deliberate, it allows space and time to breathe. This sisterhood demonstrates the beauty and strength in vulnerability. Their acceptance and commitment to each other is at the heart of their work. Nothing is more pure and healing than the love they so clearly feel for each other.
I will try not to mimic the reviews criticised onstage. I am not a ‘man who has a daughter’ but rather a woman who has her own story; who has always shuddered at the word ‘victim’ … but here I saw no victim. I saw pain and grieving, but also triumph and strength, and it made me feel more hopeful and less alone.
PHOTOS: Traverse Theatre