The Soho Theatre, London, until 22nd September
Fabric, a Damsel Productions performance, tells the moving and powerful story of Leah, poignantly played by Nancy Sullivan, and of her search for love and belonging. For isn’t that one of the reasons why fairy-tales are so powerful and appealing? The search for love, belonging, for the elusive “happy ever after”?
Leah is your day-to-day young professional woman, working at a Savile Row tailor, when she meets her husband-to-be, Ben. Confiding directly to the audience, Leah tells us about their first dates: the clothes she wore, the food they ate, the drinks they had, the behind the scenes conversations she had with her best mate, her worries, her desires, her dreams. Anyone can relate to that: the stress and hope of those first few dates with someone you could really see yourself marrying one day, with your prince charming! This part of the narrative also shows how much of our feelings and thoughts we can hide, compromise, and ignore, in order to fit in, to be loved and validated, and get our happy ever after.
Fabric uses clothing as powerful symbols in the action unfolding on this one-woman show: from the dresses worn to dates, and meeting the future mother-in-law, to tailored suits, to the wedding dress, to a long-lost childhood memory, to the dress she was wearing during the sexual assault that would change her life. They remind us of the importance we place on clothes, how they make us feel, how they allow us to hide from others, how others apply meaning to them, but also of the memories they can carry. It is also a metaphor for our fragility, our strength, our need to be seen.
It uses carefully placed props, and voicemail messages from the present day, to shift gears from bubbly and comedic, to serious and difficult, presenting nuances in behaviour, in thought, in feeling. The leading up to the sexual attacks, their description, and their aftermath, are presented well in their complexity, such as the duality of when Leah is presenting information as she experienced it, as well as how a barrister would present it in court, highlighting the secondary trauma victims always endure when coming forward.
It is not a new story, but it is a tale of the times we live in, and the complex conversations the #MeToo movement has brought to the table: what leads to domestic and sexual abuse? What makes the collective almost always turn on the victim, rather than on the abuser? Why are systems that are meant to protect victims, often the ones inflicting secondary trauma? Why does it matter what someone was wearing, or how much they had drunk, when they were attacked? Why are victims always the ones who need to explain themselves and their behaviour? I think Leah somewhat answers all these questions when she says, almost defeated: “I realised…I realised that no one is ever good enough for your sons, but everyone is good enough for your daughters.”
Fabric runs at the Soho Theatre until September the 22nd at 3.15pm, 4.30pm and 8.30pm (Check website for accurate dates and times). Book Now.
Review © Ryan C.V