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Theatre Review - Bold Girls by Rona Munro, Theatre by the Lake

PUBLISHED: 12:16 09 July 2018

Bold Girls at Keswick's Theatre by the Lake (c) Robert Day

Bold Girls at Keswick's Theatre by the Lake (c) Robert Day

Robert Day

Keswick's Theatre by the Lake (TBTL) have taken us back to the late 80s and 'The Troubles' in Northern Ireland with this challenging play by Rona Munro.

Bold Girls at Keswick's Theatre by the Lake (c) Robert DayBold Girls at Keswick's Theatre by the Lake (c) Robert Day

Centring around three women whose husbands or fathers have all been killed or imprisoned through the various crossfires, Munro explores the nature of their relationships before exploding them apart with the arrival of a strange ‘girl in white’. As usual with a studio theatre production the sound and lighting crew do a superlative job in bringing the play alive. At one point in the play there is a police raid and I almost felt like raising my hands to the back of my head in fear along with the cast. A superb job.

Controversially, the production played in Belfast where Munro admits that it was a ‘mixed response’ adding that the women were fine with the story but that the men generally were ‘a bit put out’ according to Neil Cooper in The Herald Scotland. This doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. The themes of the play are unashamedly misandrist to say the least. TBTL produced Munro’s ‘Iron’ a couple of years ago and while that too looked at relationships between women, the aggression towards men was nowhere near the same as with ‘Bold Girls’ despite a lead character in prison for murdering her husband. ‘Bold Girls’ doesn’t hold back any punches - consider yourself warned.

In a way, I feel the play cheats by purporting to have a theme of the problems of life in 80s Northern Ireland while really being about how awful men are. You could easily lift these characters out of NI and place them in Liverpool or Birmingham or almost anywhere and not lose anything of the plot let alone the main message. This is not to say that Munro exonerates the female characters from blame. These are women with flaws without a doubt. But it is clear that the proactive cause of their issues are the men in their lives.

The four actors involved play their parts superbly. Much of the story centres around young widow Marie - who is unfailingly optimistic (naively feeds the birds every day) - and Sarah Kempton plays her to perfection. In the end, this is really the only character we really care about and Kempton makes us love her dearly. Alice Imelda plays best friend Cassie with a crazy bitchiness which is mesmerising. Christine Entwisle (Nora) and Lydea Perkins (Deirdre) have already proven their worth with TBTL’s ‘Rails’ which continues to run alongside this one and have clearly relaxed into their time with the Cumbrian theatre. The production is worth seeing for their performances alone but men, if you go, prepare for a battering.

‘Bold Girls’ runs until Wed 24 October. For more information on the production visit theatrebythelake.com. To book, call Box Office on 017687 74411.

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