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A review by Ariana Georgulas for EXTRA! EXTRA!
Ivana Sajko's Woman Bomb is noteworthy for two main reasons: it engages the concept of the humanisation of a terrorist as someone who experiences fears, desires and rationale as anyone else would, and not just existing as a merciless human bomb and, through this examining, in particular, the subject of female suicide bombers. The subject matter is challenging, as it asks the audience to contemplate the notion of sympathising with a terrorist. This idea is tricky, mainly as the image of terrorists fed to us on a daily basis via the media, has been dehumanised into that of a Hollywood type villain. The terrorist is nearly always portrayed as a bearded Muslim male. With the creation of this 'role', the terrorist, him or herself, has since become a creator of disaster rather than a tangible person with whom we could build a relationship, for example. Woman Bomb challenges the idea of this stereotype, making him or her more tangible. At the same time, the playwright nods towards the premise that a terrorist is a 'role to be played' by setting the play within a play and creating a writer who creates the character – a female suicide bomber. This leads to question, is this portrayal any more real than the pre conceived idea of terrorists being male and Muslim?
Ivana Sajko's suicide bomber (Laura Harling) appears completely different to the stereotypical image. She is a pretty, blonde, young woman who radiates innocence, reflective of the female honey trap spies recently being unearthed. She first appears in leggings and a leather jacket dressed as any young woman might to go to work or out shopping. The audience gets to know her through her observations of the politician she is about to kill and her battle against the two voices of the playwright's mind- the creative and the rational. Her self-discovery journeys through the labyrinthine states of her mind from the lucid to the hysterical, questioning the motives of her suicide mission. Nikki Squire and Laura Pradelska play two different sides of the writer, Ivana Sajko.
Vanda Butković and Maja Milatović-Ovadia's co direction realises the femininity of the play. They chose to emphasise the fragility of both the character and her creator by creating a sense of purity surrounding the protagonist from her long blonde hair that is constantly a focal point to her white toga like costumes, and bathing. The simplicity of the set, lighting and white costumes, and the merging of the character's three voices in a choral element are reminiscent of a Greek tragedy. This purity was offset rather confusingly by large projections of sometimes unnecessary images. Brash feminist statements destroyed the subtlety, mainly when the protagonist was describing her womanliness and parallels between motherhood, and carrying a bomb while the projector shows a giant lactating nipple.
The three actresses are well cast, with each reflecting the different sides of her character through her physicality and voice. The playfulness and acidity of the relationship between the voices of the playwright (Nikki Squire and Laura Pradelska) and the suicide bomber (Laura Harling) was well performed, and they could have easily been school girls taunting and teasing one another.
The breadth of the subjects being addressed in the play, and the choice of using three actresses instead of just one to voice the three conflicting ideals of the suicide bomber was clever and complimented the play within a play scenario separating the character from the playwright. Yet at times the variety of subject matter and wordy script, in addition to the different dramatic forms being used including monologue, dream sequence, and the Meta theatre element, all squeezed into an hour, made the play muddling at times.
The high energy and constant pace of the play helped the tension build effectively and was unnerving near the end of the play, but I felt that I was perhaps, waiting more for a sound effect, than caring what happened to the protagonist. The final scene of the play ended in complete darkness, adding to the tension as the audience waited for the crescendo. The waiting felt uncomfortable, but by the end, the introductory point had been overpowered by the business of the action.
Edited by Mary Couzens
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