HYSTERIA: Whispers & Butchered - Birmingham Old Rep Theatre

HYSTERIA: Whispers & Butchered - Birmingham Old Rep Theatre

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Posted 2023-07-25 by dpmfollow

Mon 24 Jul 2023

Birmingham’s Old Rep is taken over by the HYSTERIA Festival – a week-long celebration of women in the theatre and the arts. And for the second evening, audiences were taken into two nightmare scenarios of a very different kind with the shows Whispers and Butchered.



English-Polish theatre company The Mirror of Stage’s Whispers steps back in time to the Victorian era and the life of one woman PM Jones. When we enter the auditorium we see a woman sitting, clutching a sheet of paper, a suitcase by her and begin to ask ourselves who, why what?

In a one-woman performance, Pat Zajac takes on the role of the mysterious Jones, telling her story in bursts using a handful of props from the suitcase and jumping backwards and forwards in time. We quickly discover she has been incarcerated in a lunatic asylum but only slowly learn why.
The tale is an excoriating exploration of women’s lack of rights in the Victorian era in which a woman could be forced into a marriage in which she held no power and, if she attempted to step outside the bounds of convention, society would crush her.

There are moments when the show becomes too polemic but it’s a thought-provoking piece and Zajac does a good job of telling her story with so little set and props. Using a series of background recordings alongside her monologue, the whispers in her mind gradually take over and we learn the true reason for her incarceration.

After the interval, the audience again returns to find the action already on stage with two characters acting out a series of carefully choreographed movements in tandem. Here we enter the dark and subterranean world of a sausage-making factory in Butchered.

There’s immediately a whiff of Sweeney Todd menace with Ez Holland’s manic presentation of a Master Sausage Maker who works like an automaton and worships the meat grinder which helps the process.

Into the scene comes an enthusiastic Apprentice, played by Nic Lawton, who gabbles about wanting to be a creative maker, tells jokes and constantly questions. The clash of personalities leads to an explosive and gut-wrenching climax.

Created by the two women who make up Worcester-based Expial Atrocious Theatre Company, Butchered makes great use of light, taking us into the tenebrous and claustrophobic factory, and of sound with bone-scrunching and flesh-squelching fervour.

With plenty of dark humour, strong characterization and powerful physical theatre, Butchered is a banger of a show.

HYSTERIA continues until 30 July, see here for full details and tickets.

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261642 - 2023-07-25 08:58:45

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