Sirens is a thought-provoking, and genuinely entertaining, look at the unfortunate durability of gender-expectation for women: those ‘beautiful evil creatures’ that lead poor powerless men into their deaths.
Award-winning female-led company Zoo Co’s Sirens focuses on how little gender expectations have changed since Ancient Greece – a time when Mermaids were believed to be utterly beguiling creatures that kill men with their irresistible singing. Because men, of course, could not do anything against these deadly beautiful demi-goddesses, the poor powerless fellows. All of this rings both unbelievable and yet strangely familiar, doesn’t it?
Three Greek sirens (Florence O’Mahony, Rosalind Hoy and Fleur Rooth) travel through time and wash up on a modern-day Hastings beach. They’ve come to steal the book of Ancient Greek mythology that tells their story as perceived by men, rather than how it truly played out though history. The three sirens are hopeful, expecting everything to be different, but soon learn that little has changed. Sure, they can wear trousers and work to earn their own money – but they’re still expected to keep absolutely quiet as to protect the life of men.
The most impressive aspect of Sirens is its inclusivity. Every performance is a relaxed performance: accessible to those who might need to make some noise and move during the show. At the same time, every show is also accessible to the d/Deaf community as the show is fully captured by, and even contains some, sign language. There is LGBTQ representation, PoC, and disabled characters…and honestly, all of these things feel completely natural (confirming that yes, theatre shows – given a bit of effort – can be open to a much, much larger audience).
As the show nears its end, it does however start to seem that the Sirens are only using sign language because it is convenient for them to communicate without using their voice, rather than to make a conscious effort to include their Deaf friend (Jamal Ajala). As soon as they can switch back to spoken language, they do – leaving their friend out of the conversation. This was a rather sad discovery. Another thing they should just watch out for are the small technical details. There’s so little space between audience and performers in Pleasance Two, that the actors need to be aware that we see everything – even what they are (or aren’t typing) on the phone.
Having said that, Sirens is hugely entertaining – and will simultaneously make you think as much as it will laugh. Great for a group of girlfriends to see after a nice lunch together, and warmly recommended to sit a few rows back (as some of the show can be difficult to read from the front).