Kali Theatre’s Bitched, currently playing at the Tristan Bates Theatre, grapples with some interesting notions of motherhood but fails to make any significant comment that leaves a lasting impression.
Bitched, produced by Kali Theatre and currently playing at the Tristan Bates Theatre, is an exploration of marital femininity, gendered career expectations and oppressive nature of systemic patriarchy. Whilst this piece of new writing grapples with some interesting notions of motherhood and what it means to be a modern woman, it fails to reach a conclusion or make any significant comment that leaves a lasting impression. Ali, played by the capable Shireen Farkhoy, is a former Creative Director of Vidal Sassoon who has begrudgingly taken three years out of her career to support her initially unrecognised husband in his sculptural ventures. The action centres around the navigation between the couple’s marriage and Robert’s (Darren Douglas) elevation to success in the art world, with the assistance of curator and manager Nirjay (Robert Mountford) and his wife Suzanne (Viss Elliot Safavi).
Strong performances from protagonist Ali (Shireen Farkhoy) offset the melodramatic twists in the script and exaggerated characterisation of the supporting cast. Unfortunately, Robert’s relationship expectations are offensive; his insistence on Ali’s support (to the detriment of her own person growth) is positively archaic. Whilst this is interesting stimulus for discussion, there is no resolution and the message is reduced to being purely allegorical and insinuative of ‘men being bad’ rather than addressing the navigation of gender expectations within marriage. Whilst it addresses the idea of ‘can women have both a career and a family’, it does so in a manner which offers little hope for change and simply presents two toxic relationships which are assumed to be representative of wider society.
Playwright Sharon Raizada clearly is a talent, bolstering a CV of impressive work and accolades with the first half of the show reflecting this, pondering some very interesting questions about the plights of being a modern mother. Raizada can write naturalistically and with wit however, the second half suffers due to lack of direction.
Despite these wider criticisms, the production is well finessed. It is worth mentioning a deserved nod to the beautiful sound design, which elevated the drama and aided smooth transition between scenes with the stage design utilising the space magnificently. Despite an unexpectedly raukas crowd, the cast navigated the disruptions with tact and style and remained entirely committed to their narrative.
Overall, I feel conflicted about Bitched. Whilst it poses some very interesting questions, it provides no answers and arguably very little debate. The two dimensional exploration lacked nuance and presented the male characters as (exclusively terrible) perpetrators of oppression.