This September Kairos staged its annual theatre production of the ‘Women On Top’ monologues. The play was the finale of a three month long project exploring women’s identity and voices through the visual and performing arts. We undertook this project again in collaboration with Casteaway Arts, a performance company that specialises in working with marginalised groups.
Our arts season kicked off back in July when we invited all the Kairos women to summon up their creative sides by placing brush to easel and paint their self portraits. The portraits were designed to capture in an image an aspect of themselves: their dreams, hopes, beliefs; any positive affirmation of their personal identities summed up in a picture, which were used as artworks to motivate and inspire the writing of the women on top Monologues.
The women were guided through the creative process of writing, producing and performing their monologues by Reena from Casteaway Arts. She conducted a course of performance exercises directing the women through a crash course in the basics of acting, simultaneously designed to encourage the writing process by raising self awareness, cultivating a vision and ultimately expressing it as a piece of performance art.
Over the course of 6 weeks our group of women, most of whom had no previous experience of acting would be standing on a professional stage performing self written monologues to a paying audience.The play was performed to the general public at Ego Performance Company’s art house.
To sum it up the play is a group of individual personal reflections formed of a series of mini-plays and monologues in examination of womanhood in the modern world. Of what it is to be a woman at work, at home and in society.
It was a gripping piece of theatre, with scenes designed to keep the audience in a perpetual state of emotional ups and downs. Parts were hilarious: one piece on the traumas of pre-menstrual tension, another on the bindings of female lingerie. Other parts were heart-rending: a monologue telling the story of a woman who suffered a miscarriage and a play on the conflicting emotions of being a sex worker are a few amongst others.
We may be biased but we felt that the play ticked all the boxes as a well acted, enlightening and emotionally gripping piece of theatre production. This was echoed by written audience feedback, which was entirely positive. One audience member said they felt the play was “Very thought provoking re: views of sex workers, how they feel about themselves and how they fit into society”.
Perhaps one of the biggest successes was that the pieces were written and performed based on genuine personal experiences, resulting in passion of emotion, clearly infused both in the writing and in the acting, with noticeably emotive effects upon the audience – “heartfelt”, “a great insight” and “very funny” were all words used to describe the ‘WOT’ monologues. 100% said that they enjoyed the evening, which succinctly concludes the evening a resounding success.
Feedback from the women was equally positive. One participant said that they “loved getting the feedback from the audience after the show ended. It was a confidence booster and gave me so much pride in the work I have done and the team I’ve worked with”. Overall the feedback we received from the women indicated that taking part in the project increased their overall confidence and that they had gained from the opportunity of self-expression, one woman describing participating as “cathartic”, as well as socially benefitting from working in a team.
As usual we cannot take all the credit for the success of this project. Many people gave their time, skills and resources. Our thanks go out to Casteaway Arts, EgoArts Company, St Mary and St Benedict’s Church and all the volunteers who gave their time and resources away for free.
Finally we would like to say a massive thank you to all the women who took part in the production. We are extremely proud of everyone who performed on the night, for joining in so enthusiastically with the writing process, for engaging so sincerely in raising self-awareness and for having the confidence to stand up in front of an audience and perform from the heart with such professionalism. It was amazingly gratifying to see such a diverse group of women working together to give a voice to their experiences. We can’t wait for next year’s performance!