Powerful, intense, and at times, harrowing are just a few ways to describe the new production of Anna Jordan’s modern play, Freak. The audience are instantly fixated on Lara Cowler and Kate O’Gorman who play Georgie and Leah, keeping the audience fully engaged with the story through a series of comical and distressing monologues, making the two actresses utterly fascinating to watch.
For those unfamiliar with Jordan’s powerful play, Freak depicts the painfully honest stories of Leah and Georgie as they come to accept their sex lives. Georgie is thirty and in a downwards spiral, having quit her job, started work at a strip club and beginning to drink a dangerous amount of alcohol. Leah is fifteen, anxiously anticipating her first time, and spends her days practising different sexual positions on her bed. As these very witty and very salient monologues finally interlock, the audience are forced to ask themselves what sexual empowerment looks like to women in the twenty-first century.
“the characters voice the insecurities about sex that we all have and tell us very intimate details of their lives”
Certainly not for the sexually reserved, the themes explored will strike a chord with many of us as sex is discussed in an authentic and relatable way. That is what makes this performance so enthralling; the characters voice the insecurities about sex that we all have and tell us very intimate details of their lives. When O’Gorman’s character talks naturally about watching porn and using Veet, the audience almost ends up feeling like they’re encountering a close friend.
In places, the play is somewhat unsettling as the separate monologues grapple between healthy experimentation and disturbing exploitation. The candid tone utilised inspires genuine emotions of gratitude as we are encouraged to speak about sex openly in a society that often makes us feel it is taboo.
“Cowler’s portrayal of the despair and pain that Georgie suffers was outstanding”
The cast do a wonderful job of bringing to life their characters, each utilising the natural speech and intonation of Jordan’s script. Cowler’s portrayal of the despair and pain that Georgie suffers was outstanding and in particular, her piercing scream at one point left the audience silent in their seats in a state of shock and chilling anticipation. O’Gorman provides another essence to the production through her expressions of confusion as a character who is on the brink of first-time sex, and the pressures that arise through this and, more generally, the pressures generated from sexual experimentation.
Together, these two actresses complement one another tremendously, making them an easy partnership for the audience to resonate with. Both actresses deserve high praise as they were on stage for the entirety of the performance, and delivered exceptionally emotive dialogue, all the while having costume changes within the performance.
“The simplistic staging of this show was a masterpiece”
Niamh Caines and Lydia Smith directed and produced a production in which all facets were engaging. The simplistic staging of this show was a masterpiece as the bedroom set played a key part in drawing an explicit parallel between Georgie and Leah. With scattered props being a key element to portray these two characters who are so distinctly different, it was brilliant to see details such as a large Tigger teddy on Leah’s side of the stage contrasted against the empty wine bottles that filled Georgie’s bedroom set. Such a clear distinction significantly helped drive the fundamental features of these characters by portraying the youth and innocence of Leah in comparison to the more unstable Georgie.
“The strobe lighting intensified pinnacle moments”
The lighting designer, Darcey Graham, and sound designer, Joanne Blunt, combined their skills brilliantly to create short breaks and necessary transitions in one of the most exciting ways I have ever seen. The strobe lighting intensified pinnacle moments, and cleverly changed the tone during sombre moments in which the women felt isolated, pressured – and, yes, like freaks – if they did not feel validation from the male gaze. Such moments of darkness during the most climactic parts of the play, filled with drugs, abandonment, grief, sex and jarring lights and sound, culminated in a surprisingly profound and hopeful way; Georgie and Leah safe and together as the stage goes black, the audience holding it’s collective breath.
“I would highly recommend watching this show”
Freak is implicitly witty and extremely relatable to modern audiences. Heart-wrenching, exciting and compelling, I would highly recommend watching this show. It is extremely rare to leave the theatre feeling both stunned and optimistic after watching a play you know is about painful sexual experiences. Anna Jordan’s thought-provoking play is a definite must see, as her script is brought to life in a refreshing way that makes this show one of the strongest pieces of student theatre I have seen.
8/10 – Excellent, highly enjoyable
Image courtesy of Nottingham New Theatre
‘Freak’ is running at the Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 5th November, to find out more and to book tickets, see here.
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