No Place for a Woman at Theatre 503
Cordelia O’Neill’s second play No Place for a Woman centres on the survival of two women fighting against the same oppressor, a Commandant of the Nazi regime during the Second World War. Both are from very different walks of life: Isabella (Emma Paetz) is a Jewish ballet dancer who was imprisoned in a concentration camp, and Annie (Ruth Gemmell) is the wife of the Commandant, who works in that camp. The two meet when Isabella is brought to Annie’s home to perform at a party she is holding. Through this setting the piece takes the events of one of the most horrific points in history and allows the audience to see it through a domestic lens; by understanding these two characters we can see the depravity of the time in which they existed.
The play is composed of two monologues, which work off each other, building into a climax as the women meet. This composition of monologues is created in such a way that one would be forgiven for believing that they were actually having a conversation with each other. The ease with which these fast-paced lines are delivered shows the talent of both actresses and creates a melancholy dynamic between their characters, developed further when the audience learns the relationship between them. The intimate performance space adds to the feeling of being drawn into the action on the stage.
Directed with beautiful subtlety by Kate Budgen, the simple addition of dance adds another layer to this already complex piece. No Place for a Woman becomes a dance of two women, allowing the viewer to see this form of art as interaction for them both. The dancing builds off the cello music, played live at the back of the stage, creating a sense of missing memory as this whole plece is the two characters telling a story. It is also used to articulate the emotion of the two women, although at points the music does feel like a tool for a scene change. The set contradicts the life portrayed through dance and evokes a sense of confinement, showing that although Isabella is physically imprisoned, Annie is also emotionally trapped through her relationship with her husband. Overall, these elements add to the articulate story of the vulnerability of these women and the lengths they will go to survive, creating a fascinating performance.
Photo: Small Things Theatre
No Place for a Woman is on at Theatre 501 from 3rd until 27th May, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch playwright Cordelia O’Neill talk about No Place for a Woman here: