Review: Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties

Written by Jen Silverman

Betty 1 (Sara Stewart)
Betty 2 (Lucy McCormick)
Betty 3 (Beatriz Romilly)
Betty 4 (Johnnie Fiori)
Betty 5 (Genesis Lynea)

It was a packed out at The Southwark Playhouse on Monday evening for the premiere of Jen Silverman’s new play Collective Rage: A play in 5 Betties.

Five women, all named Betty, gather in a neighbourhood somewhere in New York.  Five extremely different lives, one thing in common – rage.  But rage that transforms over the course of 85 minutes in to an array of beautiful outcomes. Betty 1 is rich and always furious at the news, Betty 2 is desperately lonely and stuck in a sexless relationship, Betty 3 is ready to leave her job at a make up counter to work in the theat-ah, Betty 4 is lesbian and busy working on her truck and Betty 5 is genderqueer, recently got out of prison (and recommends everyone try it) and runs a boxing gym.

It’s fast paced, startling and brilliant.  They throw the word ‘pussy’ in to the arena more times than it’s possible to count and it’s so utterly refreshing.  To see queer women represented on stage, existing in numerous ways, and breaking away from old tropes and stereotypes is something I have been waiting for, for a long time. To see intersectional representation of the LGBT+ community is also a welcome breather from the norm.  Without any spoilers we see see queer relationships with happy(ish) endings, and no lesbians or non binary people are killed.  Surprisingly simple, astonishingly how rarely it’s achieved in theatre and film.

The Betties are all brilliant, funny and likeable in their own ways.  I think my favourite was Betty 3, she has huge and admirable ambition, often laughed at by some of the audience, but they are mistaken in their laughter, for her plans for a theatrical production may seem ridiculous, but in turn bring a community together, and set the lives of all five Betties on a new track, she’s emotionally intelligent and fearless – so in all, she wins.

Lucy McCormick is fabulous and heartbreaking as Betty 2, who becomes slightly obsessed with her pussy after taking a sneaky peek at it in a hand mirror.  Having reviewed her devised show Triple Threat last month, her versatility as a performer is clearly demonstrated here in how she’s approached this role and it makes me excited to wonder where we’ll see her next.

I thoroughly enjoyed my evening spent with the 5 Betties; Collective Rage feels a little as though Orange is the New Black has collided with Desperate Housewives, in the absolute best way possible.  This is queer theatre and women’s / genderqueer stories breaking gloriously and unapologetically in to the mainstream. If you see something this month, let it be this!

Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties runs at The Southwark Playhouse until 17th Feb 2018
Book Now

© Amie Taylor 2018

Collective Rage at Southwark Playhouse. Johnnie Fiori (Betty 4) Photo by Jack Sain_preview

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