Choose Your Own Adventure: [Blank] At Donmar Warehouse

[BLANK], Donmar Warehouse ★★★★☆

By Paul Ewing Last edited 9 months ago

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Choose Your Own Adventure: [Blank] At Donmar Warehouse [BLANK], Donmar Warehouse 4
Photo: Helen Maybanks

From 100 scenes that run over 500 pages comes Alice Birch's do-it-yourself play, [Blank]. Director Maria Aberg has chosen 30 of Birch's scenes for this production, and the end result is an evocative and emotional journey of women on the margins of society. Or at least that’s what it seemed to me. It becomes a do-it-yourself play for the audience too as you begin to piece together the various characters before and start making connections about what you’re seeing.

Photo: Helen Maybanks

As windows smash, crockery breaks or salty pasta gets eaten, what emerges are the struggles of a range of different women who find they can’t escape from the world they live in. And the emptiness, or blank emotions, that they feel, gives us the title of the play. Women in prison, or a refuge, or selling themselves to get by. In the light of the #MeToo era, which is hilariously put down as a “revolution on Twitter” it’s a thought-provoking piece.

Photo: Helen Maybanks

This could be a worthy topic for a night at the theatre, but there is a lot of warmth and humour in the piece, aided by a strong all-female ensemble that includes Shona Babayemi and Joanna Horton.

There are the two girls in foster care setting new ground rules and debating the merits of keeping all your possessions in carrier bags, and an outreach worker rehearsing how to tell a mother her daughter died. Each scene serves to underscore the plight of women, particularly those in the criminal justice system, in a sensitive yet realistic way.

Photo: Helen Maybanks

Things come to a head at a dinner party with a bunch of affluent liberal women. While talking about how their lives were changed, volunteering for 10 days at an orphanage in South America among plates of clafoutis and lines of coke, their privilege and virtue signalling is challenged with devastating effect.

A provocative view on whether it’s possible to escape poverty, violence and liberal platitudes.

[BLANK], Donmar Warehouse, Earlham Street, WC2H 9LX, £10-£40, until 30 November 2019.

Last Updated 25 October 2019