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Theatre Review: REaD ****

Lorna Irvine reviews a production that's 'fun, saucy and inventive'.

Tidy Carnage's fantastic five-strong cast of beautiful redheads welcome the audience into The Scarlet Church, a speakeasy where those not blonde, brown or raven may find a safe haven. In this futuristic dystopian world, red haired people are being criminalised.

Roxy, Boo, Godiva, Esther and hostess Madame play with representations of female redhead iconography—stroppy, Pre-Raphaelite loon, over-sexed, angelic and steely-eyed, and take prejudice as their cue to examine the impact of such negative reinforcements. But it's much more fun, saucy and inventive than that sounds. There is a re-imagining of The Specials' ‘Ghost Town’ and Labelle's ‘Lady Marmalade’, backstage bickering, pubic hair testimonies, historical sketches naughtily skewering Boudicca and Anna O, a pop quiz and performance poetry written by co-collaborator Kevin P Gilday.

The quintet are great company, their harmonies gorgeous and the personality of each woman wickedly, vividly rendered--like a family which, although not dysfunctional, is deeply idiosyncratic. Here is the unabashed sexuality implicit in Angela Carter's feminist fairytales, where Red Riding Hood may prove a seductive equal of the wolf and Ophelia is not unhinged, merely spirited. We are impelled to imagine Marilyn Monroe before she hit the (peroxide) bottle and Cleopatra with a Henna rinse, instead of a sleek black bob, a la Liz Taylor.

Helen Cuinn as feisty Roxy is impressive and Linda McLaughlin an imperious matriarch, but Boo, played by Belle Jones, is my favourite--an impish Victorian minx, producing lollipops from her russet ringlets. The most chilling moment, though, is Radiohead's ‘Creep’ sung by Sarah McCardie (her paranoia increasing as the red police close in) as a riposte to sexual bullying, which makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

This is cabaret with a clear-eyed subversion; a red alert to increasing everyday tolerance--not just to those with the ginger gene, but a heartfelt plea to respect the personal space of women globally.

Part of Mayfesto at the Tron Theatre. Run ended.

Tags: theatre

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