It’s not easy coming up with new and original angles for online drama particularly when it comes to audio work. Futures Theatre, however, have managed to do just that with a series of podcasts which mix real discussions with new writing which they have called Fully Amplified. Each episode consists of the voices of a group of women discussing their lives and connected issues interspersed with a piece written in the wake of that conversation. This new style of drama-documentary provides an intriguing mix where the discussion informs the drama, and the drama reflects on the discussion making for a satisfying whole which is more than the sum of its parts. This is a review of episodes 4-6; episodes 1 – 3 are reviewed here.
Episode 4 (Still Gay As Hell) features a discussion about personal identity led by a group of Queer Black women and non-binary people whose testimony is more than a little revealing about the attitudes which they face. The accompanying and interwoven monologue is Snow Globe by babirye bukilwa and examines the issue of internalised misogyny, a state in which womxn subconsciously project sexist ideas onto other womxn and even onto themselves. The central character (played by Shaniqua Okwok) goes through a relationship with somebody a few years older and out the other side and possibly learns as much about themself as the other person. It all builds up to a blazing row which really needs two performers to get the power of it over to the listener. As it is a monologue the piece ends up reporting what was said rather than it being heard directly which undercuts its power to some extent. I took the title to refer to the ornament which is shaken up, the vision of what’s inside becomes obscured but then gradually a new clarity is restored – and if that’s not a metaphor for a life then I don’t know what is.
The next topic under scrutiny in Not Just Two People In Love is inter-racial relationships, something which should not be of concern in the modern day and age but nevertheless still is. As the people in the discussion make clear it is not always the white community alone which raises it as an issue, it is people of all ethnicities. The accompanying monologue Geometries Of Love And Power by Marinella Mezzanotte is a fairly dense piece of writing which uses mathematics to underpin the nature of relationships – and this holds good for same race relationships as well. One of the key symbols is that of the balance of power for any couple as typified by a seesaw. It’s a powerful and resonant image which stays with you after the conclusion of the piece. Shin-Fei Chen gives voice to a number of different women in relationships but in more than one way they all speak from similar experiences and with one collective voice.
In the last of the series the title Belly Of The Wolf is shared by the episode and the monologue. The discussion comes from a group of domestic abuse sufferers who despite their experiences still find a great deal to laugh about in each other’s company. The play is an allegory on the same subject and takes Little Red Riding Hood as its inspiration. In this instance though both Red and her granny fight back and solve their own problem. Sharing at least some of its DNA with Angela Carter’s Company Of Wolves, writer Alexandra Wood initially sticks fairly closely to the original fairy tale but much of the second half is a meditation by the two generations of women while in the wolf’s stomach about how they can take back control of their own destinies. Both are played winningly by Laura dos Santos. Even so the huntsman (dos Santos again) makes a last minute belated appearance and then promptly goes off to take the credit. Seems like some things never change!
There is a bonus episode that sits outside the main series. Called Hidden Disabilities it gives a platform to five new writers who have composed very short pieces about invisible conditions such as autism. It’s an interesting finale to the podcasts but doesn’t contain anything of sufficient duration to review in any detail. I have to admit I’ve learned a good deal from listening to these half hours and as their avowed intent is to “produce work that amplifies women and non-binary people’s voices, creating a space for change” creator Caroline Bryant and her team can consider this as mission accomplished.
Fully Amplified is available via the Futures Theatre website – click here
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