Having a one woman show at the literature festival seems to be becoming something of a tradition, and Linda Marlowe's performance this year was one of the more audacious shows currently touring. Hull Truck theatre lends itself to small-scale productions - the austerity of the performance space and the proximity of the audience to the stage can create an almost claustrophobic intensity; one which Marlowe was easily able to exploit to her advantage on this occasion.
Marlowe has worked with playwright Steven Berkoff for many years and has appeared in many of his productions, including those which are best known such as 'Decadence' and 'East'. The show she produced takes monologues from these plays and others and weaves them into an uneasy and sometimes shocking examination of femininity as depicted by Berkoff. The show is fast paced (almost breathless) and unrelenting in its presentation. Ranging from pathos to violence, charm to sexual aggression, the characters portrayed become twisted into an interpretative vortex by the knowledge that this is a woman's interpretation of a man's interpretation of female archetypes. One is never quite sure whether it is Marlowe or Berkoff who has determined the manner of the performance, and one can feel oneself slipping between empathy and protest throughout the show. My first thought on leaving the theatre was that I needed to see the show again, such was the sense of involvement and complexity.
I understand 'Berkoff's Women' is shortly moving to the West End. We have been lucky to see it in Hull, and there is a way in which I hope it sets the standard for future festivals. Those who missed it missed something extraordinary and exhausting.