Harry Potter actor Emma Watson recently gave a speech at the UN, launching the HeForShe campaign to ‘end gender inequality’, in which she pondered the demonization of feminism in the press and wider social media. ‘Why has the word become an uncomfortable one?’ she asked. Kathryn Beaumont’s blog responded: ‘Because feminism is holding up a big shiny mirror to society and reflecting uncomfortable ideas like power and violence and oppression back at a world that would prefer to think of itself as having dealt with all that in the sixties.’
Uncomfortable ideas abound in I Told You This Would Happen – Kathryn Beaumont’s first solo show as writer-performer, in which she counters the media’s depiction of the ‘perfect relationship’ with a retelling of personal heartache at the hands of a chauvinist. The one-hour monologue is set within a film noir detective’s office.
Alex Swift’s direction certainly drew us in. The repetition of certain movements (pull down projector screen, listen to tape recorder, look through window) forced us to focus on the sad and tragic tale as it flowed out through Beaumont’s cool and assured performance. Beaumont poses, under Alison Neighbour’s refined set, as Bogartian as you like; rifling through evidence, sticking notes to the wall and supping hidden bottles of gin as the investigation progresses. Who was this cocksure PI and how did ‘he’ fit in with the story? Soon it became clear that the detective act was just that, a mask to help keep face, and the story was her own.
Beaumont performs a grand tightrope act, going from one side of the character to another. Her eventual reaction – or realisation – was all the more affecting for the troubling numbers relating to how many women are duped and abused in similar ways. The piece makes it clear however that mistreatment of women on such a horrific scale is as damaging as everyday sexism.
Sections which took apart the media’s image of the perfect man or woman, sexual tips from Nuts or Zoo and the structure of the reliably insidious, ever-fashionable rom-com were incredibly amusing and could be expanded upon to provide varying light and shade. I’m sure Ms Beaumont would gladly re-write The Rewrite, coming soon to a cinema near you! In fact, to paraphrase a repeated point in the show, we all know the script and it’s not going to change unless we do something.
Returning to Emma Watson, Beaumont went on to say she despaired at Watson’s ‘invitation’ for men to get involved in the eradication of gender inequality. ‘Never mind asking men to take our hands like waifish debutantes, how about asking them to take their hands off for starters?’ Similar views appear throughout I Told You… If a negative point is to be found here, it is that men are all tarred with the same brush. I understand this is necessary for the point but often perfectly level-headed people are put off by aggressive, didactic point-making.
There is a great deal to enjoy here; including another wonderfully embedded brutal twist, some humorous wordplay and many imaginative tangents. This is a fine show with a viable point that’s definitely worth seeing. And there is already a ‘spinoff’, entitled Call Waiting, in development. The Cambridge and Live Theatre Academy-trained Kathryn Beaumont is surely a rising talent. Just don’t expect her message to be a comfortable one.