Director: Blanche McIntyre
Writer: Ella Hickson
Cast: Romola Garai, Michael Gould, Lara Rossi, Samuel West
Seen on: 23.4.2018
A young woman (Lara Rossi), an aspiring playwright, meets the director (Samuel West) of a play she just saw and tells him just what she though of it. He barely takes her comments seriously, believing her naive, but inspired by her fire offers her a job anyway. They both are the characters of the Writer’s (Romola Garai) new play. The Director (Michael Gould) tries to bring it to life, but doesn’t seem to get what it’s about, making the Writer uncomfortable. Her boyfriend (Samuel West) urges her to stay with it regardless since it’s a well-paying job. Somehow the Writer has to find the balance between her vision and patriarchal and capitalist demands.
The Writer is a great piece of theater. It’s insightful, demanding, weird, self-aware, femininst and gripping. Beautifully done.
When I realized that during my (practically annual) trip to the UK I’d have a single evening in London where I could catch a play, I started looking at what was still available and more or less affordable and that was basically how I ended up at the Almeida to see The Writer without knowing much about it. So you can imagine my delight when it turned out that The Writer was a profound feminist critique of theater itself.
The play tackles many issues of show business in general and theater in particular as encountered by a young, female playwright. The power differential between directors and writers, exacerbated by gender factors. Finding your voice. Stepping outside of (male) norms of what makes a play good and of how it should be done.
And the play practices what it preaches, moving between layers of realities, not always being transparent in which layer we are, exactly. Are we in a play within a play? A metaphor? A fantasy? Reality? But even when the narrative freewheels, the play is always grounded in its characters, beautifully acted by all involved.
There was just one little bit that didn’t sit right with me. Lara Rossi is black, the rest of the cast is white and the question of race does come up but it’s quickly waved aside with the comment that the Writer, as a white woman, basically doesn’t think that it’s her place to discuss race. And I see where they’re coming from with that part, but that explanation felt more like an excuse and not like an actual reason.
But other than that, I was intellectually and emotionally enchanted by the play and everything it brought to the table and can only give my compliments to everyone involved – director, cast, stage design and, above all, writer Ella Hickson.