London Performance Now: Emma Semani on One Hand Tied Behind Us at Old Vic

One Hand Tied Behind Us | The Old Vic

The Old Vic is hosting a four-part series of monologues in recognition of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, curated by actor Maxine Peake and directed by Annabel Bolton. Under the umbrella title One Hand Tied Behind Us, the series began on Monday 1 March with Betsy by Ella Hickson, performed by Jill Halfpenny. On Tuesday 2 March, Contactless by Maxine Peake, performed by Siobhan McSweeney premiered, followed by Imagine That by Kit de Waal, performed by Flo Wilson on Wednesday 3 March and finally Mother’s Little Helper 1963 by Jeanette Winterson, performed by Celia Imrie on Thursday 4 March.

A comedic quality came with the honesty of self-reflection and admission of the failures in a relationship during lockdown. The self-empowering monologue by Susan Wokoma highlights prevalent issues of gaslighting from a partner in an intense period of claustrophobia and forced closeness. “It’s not like he hits me” is a summary of the excuse’s women give to defend their maltreatment, with the form of gratitude often imprisoning us to an alternative of escape. She is punished questioning her situation, blamed as a product of her family who must have ‘planted’ the seeds of doubt within her. The three-part monologue, told intimate and charismatic at a dressing table surrounded by products of femininity on International Women’s Day, marks the stages of a toxic relationship, revealing her loss of self as she gives her womanhood to a man. She is seen applying makeup, getting ready whilst telling herself ‘I’m hard to love’. Her own insecurities are echoed by the voices of society, with the doctor naming her to be a cause of her husband’s depression, to which she masks with a chuckle of backhanded approval ‘I’d love to fuck off and let him be happy”. Her own voice is echoed by the lies told to her that make feel inadequate, and the audience are left to question how much of their own voice, their personal internal narrative, is truly theirs.

This post is part of London Performance Now Series. Read more about the series here

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I am the Web and Marketing Administrator in the School of English and Drama. Amongst my various roles, I run the School's website (www.sed.qmul.ac.uk) and its Twitter feed (@QMULsed). I also manage the running of the School's Open Days and draft promotional materials.

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