Review: ROLLER

By Mars.tarrab
Barbican – The Pit

Gathered in the Barbican Pit, we are greeted by two deity-esque figures (Rachel Mars and Nat Tarrab), looming over us – magnificent and terrifying.  They make no bones and waste no time in reaching the point of their arrival – they are here to talk about the patriarchy. They are here to talk about change and the fact that after myriad years, it is now time for that change. They could be placed as travellers from the past or future, yet they are also screamingly of the present – and of course, they can be and are all three.

Using Roller Derby as a starting point for explorations – a contact sport, which is predominately female and often queer (with the Vagine Regime being a huge Roller Derby movement in The States and now also here) – they use the strength and power that women use in this sport to highlight where strength and action may be more usefully placed (over killing a dog or attacking an innocent audience member, as Mars demonstrates).

There have been a string of successful books in recent years which echo the tones of this show, from The Carhullian Army, by Sarah Hall to this year’s hit The Power, by Naomi Alderman.  Both of which explore women seizing back power, and what happens when they do – this piece felt very much in line with this school of thinking.  The anger and motivation is raw and real, and satisfying. It reflects much of the anger I’m sure we feel and have felt in recent months (and years) following the news of sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood, theatre, politics and everywhere else. The anger is refreshing, to see, to be that close to it – we are so often told to ‘calm down’ – ROLLER is a reverberating reminder that correctly placed anger can change the world.

It was a delight to see a show delivered by a team of women, but also with huge diversity within that team –  Mars.tarrab have clearly reached beyond standard casting techniques to construct a diverse team for this show – far more representative than any company I’ve seen on stage in recent years. These women pave the way – perhaps for a Roller Derby game, but far more likely for the change that is to come. The voice of a child concludes the show, and I’m left with the image of her alone skating the stage. They leave us with a reminder that the next next generation are growing, and again it is time to try to change things for them – it was was both hopeful and disconcerting.

The anger and ideas were huge, underlined by intricate and often direct language which felt good to listen to – I certainly left having been powered-up and prepared for the revolution, but also ready to sit quietly and reflect on the messages dropped by Mars.tarrab over the course of the hour. As disturbing as it was inspiring, it still edges in to my thoughts a week later – ROLLER certainly left its mark.

This production has now closed, for future work visit:

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 09.09.26

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