Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings


Flash, bang, wallop, what a picture! Phil Nooney as Joe, Dominika Nala as Kate, James Blackburn as Steve and Many Yeomans as Morag. Pictures: Alastair Barnsley

How to Date a Feminist

Highbury Theatre Centre


Relationships. We all have them, after all no man is an island as John Donne informed us, even if some do wander as far along the headland and out to sea as they can.

The problem is that perfect relationships are as rare as honest politicians, even Romeo and Juliet got it all wrong at the end, so Kate and Steve and Carina and Ross, perm any two from four, are on a hiding to nothing.

Let’s start at the beginning. Steve is a baker, somewhere in his 30s, and he drops on one knee, and whips out a ring, traditional style, to . . . well, is it a proposal or a round of negotiations with Kate?

To be honest not many proposals of marriage start with: “Before you say anything, I want to apologise for the patriarchy”.

You see Steve is a male feminist - What that? you may ask. Well at its simplest it is a man who supports rights and equalities for women, championing feminism. At its most complicated it is . . . well Steve.

Steve is the product of a broken home, spending weekdays with his father, a normal child at a normal school, and weekends with his mother at the women’s’ peace camp at Greenham Common – an anti-nuclear and anti-war protest that ran from 1981 to 2000.

His mother, Morag, is a died in the wool, Scottish, independent woman, a die hard of Greenham culture. So, after six years of weekend peace camping Steve emerged as a vegan, hard line feminist, a new man wanting to be gentle, considerate, non-macho, oh, and he doesn’t dance, although what that has to do with anything is a mystery to the legion of lifelong dad dancers out there.


Wonder Woman and Robin Hood, or Kate and Steve to their friends

Kate, a journalist, also somewhere in her 30s, is Jewish, not that that has anything to do with things apart from introducing us to her father Joe. She likes her men to be tall, dark and handsome . . . and macho and she has a penchant for attracting bad men, as she describes them. She also likes cupcakes and has a thing about Heathcliff – dark and dangerous.

So, you hardly need to be Einstein to work out this is hardly likely to be a marriage made in heaven, or Hendon . . . but that is another story.

Then there is Ross, Kate’s editor and ex-boyfriend, and Carina who is Steve’s ex fiancée. Ross, in newspaper parlance, spiked his chances by making Kate’s intern into a sort of, should we say, feature item: he’s not so much feminist, more . . . well, randy, while Carina is a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it. No girly dreams of being swept away in a cloud of romance and perfume there then.

Two very different couples . . . sort of, except the same actors take on both parts, which adds a new layer of concentration required from the audience.

Dominika Nala is simply superb as both Kate and Carina, cleverly distinguishing the two. She is Polish and her hint of an accent adds an attractive edge to her splendid delivery with every word clear as a bell. In the intimate confines of the studio you can see just how accomplished an actress she is, always reacting, always involved, whether speaking or not, bringing convincing, animated life to any character she plays whenever she is on stage.

James Blackburn, as the feminist Steve, makes indecisiveness into an art form with his accommodating attitude to life, starting all decisions with a conference on ensuring what is decided is really what you want . . . full of are you sures.

A sex life struggles when seduction starts with “would you mind awfully if I . . .”, with any idea of being swept away more likely to mean lifting your feet while he does the vacuuming. Ross, meanwhile, is less considerate, perhaps we could say he is heading more towards the chauvinist end of maledom, not so much a negotiator when it comes to the opposite sex, more a dicatator.


Mandy Yeomans as Morag and Phil Nooney as Joe with love  . . . and Famous Grouse in the air

Then we come to the parents, Kate’s father Joe and Steve’s mother Morag. Both are now divorced with Joe blaming Kate for his break up. The 15-year-old Kate had brought home Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch and his wife had read it, burned her wedding dress, and one assumes also her bra, and left.

Phil Nooney’s Joe, six years in a refugee camp, then a flat in Tel Aviv, now Golder’s Green, is a Jewish father, already. He speaks with his hands as emphasis and was delighted when his daughter was getting married – the husband didn’t matter, it was the simple act of a wedding that was important.

Joe is hardly an orthodox Jew, but has a selective view of traditions as he tries and fails to add what he remembers as the way things should be into the wedding, upset first that the wedding is in a yurt in Greenham Common rather than a new hall in the Jewish area of Hendon, then he is not required to give the bride away, as that would imply she is a chattel, then he finds Kate doesn’t want to wear her mother’s now faded wedding veil. He is delighted though that the wedding is blessed by a rabbi, even though Steve has not had, as he put it “the snip”.

Morag is brought to life by Mandy Yeomans, with a soft Scottish accent and a feminist demeanour, tempered by the fact she is a mother and at heart is still a woman with needs and desires of her own in a lovely, nuanced performance. She is less of a feminist, or perhaps a more realistic feminist than Steve, and lets him know it.

It was inevitable that the brash Joe and the more conservative Morag were going to end up together.

As for the wedding with its bio-degradable, ethical confetti? It went really well . . . well it did for 90 minutes. Least said soonest mended as they say, or in this case before we can say much we have recriminations, regrets, reunions, a revelation, a planned not a proper wedding and just to put a tin hat on it, an elopement, although technically I am not sure if you are already married it counts as an elopement, but that’s just me.

Samantha Ellis’s play questions how much people can really change to make a relationship work, or at least endure. We open with a fancy dress party with Kate as Wonder Woman, Steve as Robin Hood, and a whole plethora of costume and scene changes follow to match characters and moods and incidents, all of which entirely kills off pace, which is a pity as the content has some lovely lines, and wry humour.

Amid the laughs there is also some more serious points such as the meaning of explicit verbal consent or a rapey element in a relationship, which if not discussed are at least mentioned.

So as a play it is many things, a romcom, several in fact, and an examination of whether you can be yourself in a relationship of do you have to change or at least adapt to make things work. Something perhaps we only think about when it all goes wrong.

The costume department with Elsie Clement and Maggie Lane have done a splendid job with wardrobe, Andy Wilkes has created a period, nostalgic sound track to fill in the gaps between scenes while the stage crew worked like clockwork on Malcolm Robertshaw’s simple set, adding a little interest to the many pauses while director Liz Parry has done well to keep the four hander with its six parts and many scenes on track. To 18-05-24

Roger Clarke


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