Fringe World review: Charlotte Otton, Feminah ·
The Blue Room Theatre as part of Summer Nights ·
Review by Nina Levy ·
Brash and witty, Feminah takes its audience on a brief romp through the history of feminism and female sexuality in the Western World, from the 1800s to today. Written and performed by local theatre-maker Charlotte Otton, this “seminar” is cleverly interspersed with stories of her own experiences and confrontations with the subject matter.
It’s by no means exhaustive – at the outset Otton states that she’s coming at the topic from the perspective of a 24 year old, white, straight, cisgender female. And the concept – of flipping between external and personal narratives – is nothing new. So why does Feminah grab the audience by the scruff of its proverbial neck?
Firstly there’s Otton’s sharp, dark and frequently dirty sense of humour. Without giving away any punchlines, the great “knee-reveal” of the 1920s was a personal favourite, as was the patriarchy/oral sex analogy. Listen out for Otton’s muttered asides – they’re gold.
Then there’s her cabaret-style crooning. Accompanied by the coolly understated Joe Lui on electric guitar, Otton’s sultry contralto punctuates the decades. Her version of “Someone to Watch Over Me”, fluctuates deliciously between rich sensuality and an eye-rolling subversion of the song’s submissive lyrics. Another highlight is her tongue-in-cheek take on Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time”.
Lastly there’s Otton’s honesty. An exposed breast is not all that’s laid bare; she shares plenty. Memories of awkward sexual encounters are funny and revealing, but it’s the childhood snapshots of body-shaming comments and advice that are most discomforting. Otton is a child of the new millennium. In her vulnerability we see, shockingly, the progress that hasn’t been made.
And she’s angry about it – as well she might be. That anger explodes into a furious finale, that’s mad, bad… but somehow hopeful.
Otton’s star is on the rise. Feminah is a winner.
Pictured top: Otton’s childhood snapshots of body-shaming are striking and moving. Photo: Marshall Stay.