WE think of fashions in clothes or hairstyles changing on a regular basis, but other changes in society slip by us almost unnoticed. At the end of the last century, feminist arguments were almost always presented in such and angry and belligerent way that they were practically guaranteed to offend and upset most of those they were aimed at.
At the Hope Chapel Centre, a young woman with a great number of important and interesting views on womens’ place in the society of the day became so carried away in her vehement attack on male attitudes, that when she returned after a short interval, she found her 27-strong audience had diminished to eleven. Kat Kleve took no such chances performing her solo show for one hour without an interval. Not that she needed such a precaution, because over the years, fashions in presenting feminist views have changed tremendously.
Using the character of Tinker Bell in Peter Pan as a base (a character Kat and writer/director Lizzy Connolly see reduced by JM Barrie to a voiceless tiny flitting piece of lighting), everything about her is small, even the name Tink, they create a tall, strong-willed independent Tink. To make the messages even more palatable, Bristol born and educated Kat uses a perfectly-judged Bristolian accent. It’s amazing what you can get away with if the words are delivered in a local accent. The Cornish comedian Jethro caused little offence with some outrageous stories because they were delivered in that lovely Cornish burr, often concerning his friend Denzil Penberthy.
Kat also introduced us to her best friend and her mother, which gave her a chance to bring extra humour and pathos into the presentation. The lyrics of the songs she composed were equally adept at pushing the feminist messages along.
Using minimal costume changes and props on a slightly tilted deep pink acting area, and assisted by lighting designer Rachael Bates’ never intrusive changes of lighting, Kat strongly, always in a controlled manner, attacked the way in which we still follow the fashion of Victorian and Edwardian society, in the way in which we tell fairy stories to the current young generation. In these, and to an even greater degree in the vastly popular Disney generated film and stage tellings of these stories, women are nearly always subservient to the male hero of the story.
Unlike the lady in Hope Chapel, Kat, instead of attacking, bonded with her audience and was rewarded by an attentive group of people who, while enjoying her performance, were also listening to her messages. Many, I suspect, would have liked to engage in a debate with her to clarify some points before they placed their support behind, or challenged some of her and Lizzy’s views on the way that we introduce our young people to fairy stories.
One thing is certain, whatever the outcome of such conversations no elderly Scottish author or international entertainment company is going to put Kat Kleve and Lizzy Connolly back silent in their small boxes.