Review: Steaming by the Harlow Theatre Company at Victoria Hall Theatre

Entertainment / Fri 17th May 2024 at 12:10pm

THERE IS a tendency to start watching Steaming performed by the Harlow Theatre Company and feel it is dated.

However, this is a play based in the late seventies and reveals the challenges for women at that time. It was also quite radical in its time.

We guess, we wouldn’t start a review of David Copperfield writing that it is a bit Victorian!

It is set in a run-down public baths in London’s East End, where five women meet to bathe and share their troubles. Their personal troubles are added to by the threat by the council to close the baths

This gave an opportunity for five actresses to take up the challenge. And they certainly did.

Once again, plaudits must go to Michelle Brisa-Jimenez who produced a barnstorming performance as Josie. The themes of dependency and domestic violence were not shield away from. You felt for her character. Living a life of not so quiet desperation. Trying to break so many cycles. You felt so invested in her.

It was so important that this was an ensemble piece and it was to director’s Barry Bowen’s credit that he got the best out of each actor. Some had solid roles and acted as excellent support for the others. Sarah Randall as Violet was a case in point. Very solid and very supportive.

If anyone is going to play a role so well executed by Vanessa Redgrave in the film version then it is Jane Miles. Her on-point portrayal of upper middle class Nancy was brilliant. It was slowly revealed that she was living a very similar life to Josie.

Her foil was Jane played by Lisa Demetri. Again, she brought a middle class element to the ensemble. A character who had the bohemian life abroad snatched away by the infidelity of her partner. It was vital that such a character was played with reserve and a quiet sadness which Lisa Demetri did very well. She deftly painted a picture of learning foreign languages and teaching abroad.

Again, back in 1980, an all women play where they bare their soles like this was so radical and as the decade went on (Margaret Thatcher etc) it was seen as a pioneer piece.

The mother and daughter partnership of Mrs Meadow (Helga Dove)and Dawn (Katie Fisher) produced a fascinating sub-plot. Katie’s character touched on so many themes. Was this a case of a young person with social and emotional needs who was semi-institutionalised?

We were not that removed from a time of a girl such as Dawn being sent to homes/lobotomised etc.

Helga and Katie produced a great partnership. Katie really bloomed as an actor as the play developed.

This was deftly directed. The use of the beds, the changing rooms and mirror pay testament to Barry Bowen’s direction.

The whole play also paid testimony to the whole production team from costume, sound,, lighting and marketing.

The run continues on Friday and Saturday.


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