Women in Power review – a strange but majestic musical comedy

Seven female writers came together to reimagine Artisophanes’ ‘The Assemblywomen’, a radical comedy following a group of Athenian women as they stage a hostile take-over of the city. The end result is a spunky and bombastic show that just lacks a little consistency when it comes to it’s structure and tone.

It’s interesting to have such a large cast of writers attached to one project. This includes the likes of Shappi Khorsandi, Jenny Eclair and Jess Phillips MP. Impressive, certainly, but having so many hands in the pot does tend to have it’s drawbacks. The most jarring consequence of the writing ensemble is that most acts tend to be dramatically different to the previous, whilst at times it can feel like a bunch of short comedy gags shaken then stirred aggressively into a Artisophanes play. Yet, it’s remarkably difficult to not recommended Women in Power. The vulgar, physical comedy is spot-on, the cast are outstanding and this is first and definitely last time I’ll be seeing Alicia McKenzie doing what we all do after a dodgy vindaloo… she went for a poo.

From left to right Alicia McKenzie Anne Odeke [6203]

Alicia McKenzie, Anne Odeke, Lydia Rose Bewley, Elizabeth Boag, Anna Fordham and Lisa Kerr. Photographer Credit: Richard Davenport / The Other Richard

The plot couldn’t be simpler. Men aren’t good, lets see if the ladies can do any better, obligatory shenanigans and penis jokes to follow. This isn’t necessarily a negative as the simplicity does allow the jokes to take centre stage. ‘Women in Power’ is at its strongest when you can just laugh along at the silly bearded women and their misshapen strap-ons. Each act brings a different kind of chaos, but, if you quickly learn to embrace it, this where the fun is. At first, I was put off by the musical aspect but did find myself bopping away quite happily throughout most of Tim Sutton’s hip-hop and Broadway parodies. I also found myself being drawn into the charismatic cast and hanging onto every punch-line. Lisa Kerr’s performance while endowed with an enormous banana-shaped phallus, was a personal favourite.

It was also great to see the good, the bad and the ugly sides of the female take-over. You’d expect at least a little bit of preaching in a show where a bunch of women kick all the men out, but thankfully comedy remained the key focus. Both sides of the ‘argument’ are quite literally stripped down and chased off the stage for being too serious. Some may call for a more ruthless and modern update to the play, but I disagree, the striking abhorrence of the contemporary references worked tremendously well in my opinion. It may be jarring, but the show never attempts to make you comfortable, and the comedy is deliberately taboo, over-the top raucous nonsense. It’s silly for the sake of being silly. But, this is why Women in Power succeeds – the laughs are what matter, nothing more, nothing less, and may that never change.

At NST City, Southampton, until 29 September.

Verdict: 4/5 Stars

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