What If Women Ruled the World?

Imagine a theatrical parallelogram. The back of the stage - its only wall - leans in. Opposite - though not quite equally opposite  - the audience seating leans back at a soft incline. The floor between these two slopes is the stage, a likeness of the war room in Kubrick’s war satire, Dr Strangelove: a large circular table surrounded by chairs for all manner of decision makers. All around is the dark openness of Piccadilly Station’s pallid kindred building, Mayfield Station. It’s a spot where you might not otherwise wish to find yourself on a Thursday night near the watershed. Though the 1960s Beeching Axe was not a direct cause for this site falling into disuse, its blow to numerous other railway lines across the UK in the early 60s comes to mind, a blow struck incidentally at around the same time that the Cold War-inspired film was released (1964). Paying men large sums of money to make decisions with ill-calculated social repercussions is fitting to think about, given that the performance promises to deride and unpick the very same sort of situation.

Bar one, all the actors tonight appear to be women, who play both exasperating men for our amusement, and peaceable women of reason and cooperation for our intrigue. As men, they exhibit obstinate behaviour leading to a world’s end scenario that climaxes as the characters descend into a childish rendition of war. From here, the performance takes off from the situation posited at the end of Dr Strangelove, a 10:1 women to men population dealing with survival in a post-apocalyptic subterranean world. The actors now assume roles as women, accompanied by an impressive medley of non-thespian women whose expertise is indispensable. Their range spans the dangers of artificial intelligence, manipulation of/disrespect for personal data (or lack of internet freedom), borders and asylum seeking discrimination, environmental degradation, and lack of empathy in the context of human rights law. Kate Raworth is one of the five women, presenting her 'doughnut' model of economics that shows how, as we might have guessed, investing in our ecosystem is linked with improvements in other areas of social welfare (a model advocated by George Monbiot; whilst Carol Adams’ text on the relationship between meat-eating and patriarchy also resonates).

As the discussion about reshaping our world ensues, the wall appears to loom over us. We are made conscious of time pressing on at a rate of unwelcome knots. The physical space is exciting and comes into its own when the performance is interspersed with a televised chronology of historical conflict and the Doomsday clock.

The topic of the show is flagrantly clear from its title, and with this in mind it might have drawn the very same audience had Bartana simply promised to deliver a curated panel of superwomen. The non-rehearsed performances of the panel - complete with reflective pauses, and points of indecision - maintain a performative quality; a mimetic display of the inevitable communication gaps that accompany an attempt to solve a dangerous and nebulous state of global affairs. The converging of art and non-art formats makes for interesting pensive moments, with the slicker dramatic elements used as a contrast against the more fragmented process required when contemplating real world threats. The deepening, bassy pulses which end this evening in a derelict, former public haunt nonetheless form a strong sensory experience at the close, making you think of all kinds of power, their distribution and their effects on shared space as you exit. (HR)

- Hannah Ross


Beeching Axe and Its Effects

Kate Raworth - The Doughnut

George Monibot on Kate Raworth

Carol J. Adams The Sexual Politics of Meat’

Radical, post-war, “inexistant” nightlife architecture