BLURRED LINES (The Shed, National Theatre)

16 Jan


I’ll keep it brief because it’s 7 minutes to midnight, I’ve just consumed a LOT of biscuits and I’m curling over my laptop as we speak wondering why I’m  browsing the internet with crumbs falling into my keypad instead of curling into my bed.

I’m in a play, it’s a devised play under the leadership of two wonderful people; the magnificent director Carrie Cracknell (Doll’s House, Young Vic/West End) and brilliant writer Nick Payne (Constellations, Royal Court), our movement director is Ann Yee (The Colour Purple) she’s incredible too!

It’s called BLURRED LINES, and yes, it’s in …. honour of Robin Thicke and his apparent big …song that sold millions of records, a song about a girl who he is smoothly trying to convince that ‘she knows she wants it’…a song in which T.I later kindly offers to split her arse in two, Pharell sophisticatedly singing about how much he hates the blurred lines (of sexual consent) all the while.

I kinda like this song, I also kinda hate it when I think about it. The same way I kinda like this society but also kinda hate it when I really think about it. The sense of power and control of the opportunities you have become few and far between when you’re working class, elderly. a shade other than white, a woman, overweight, too short too tall, the list goes on.

We’ve been creating this play full time for 5 weeks now. Heavily inspired by novelist Kat Banyard’s THE EQUALITY ILLUSION. It’s been a challenge… partly because rather than my race and class being intertwined with my gender, over the last few weeks I’ve often felt like I was betraying my race/class by concerning myself with gender issues; the race angel going “OI! We were slaves, negro!” and the angel of poverty going “MATE! FEMINISM DOES NOT CONCERN ITSELF WITH OUR COUNCIL FLAT!” … and then on Sunday I saw 12 Years A Slave and flippin’ heck did it make me question why the hell I was opening my mouth to even tell someone the time.

But I guess when I watch the beautiful Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years A Slave and look at what has become of a generation of females so closely linked to a tangled mess of slavery rape and violence (the blood ties are strong; the last DOCUMENTED race led lynching was in 1981, 7 years before I was born) I cannot help but think maybe I can open my mouth a fraction?

Kat Banyard says the definition of beauty for our modern world is a young white woman with big boobs and no pubic hair,  looking at our current society (including myself) I can see the…pardon me… the mess we women have made of ourselves… with our weave and our contact lenses and our choice of black female idols. We’ve made a real mess…and before it goes any further I, Michaela Coel am taking out my weave, my contact lenses, my deeply rooted desire to be someone so physically distant from myself ; I’m tangling them up and throwing them down the stairs with the stupidly high heels, oops, they all broke. GOOD (you’ll get the stairs thing when you see the show!). And it’s not that I CAN’T wear them…I guess what makes them unhealthy for me is the ideology that they make me look ‘better’…why? Why? Argh! *Slams-digestive-bisucits-into-forehead*

In the rehearsals and in the play itself I keep hearing this notion of being ‘objectified’ by men… I think we’re in a different phase now…now we also objectify ourselves. We ‘complain‘ that rappers don’t make us the centre point of their over sexualised music videos, we complain that we’ve been replaced by the Latino girl with the big boobs or the white girl with the oversized arse, and we are upset that we are no longer being objectified by the media…what a strange starting point…that it is a GOOD thing to be publicly sexualised? To want to appear as nothing more than a hairless, pale body of  innocence (and yet experience) with a hole at the bottom of the torso? Bloody hell.

And that’s just the surface, the last month or so we’ve explored image, the media and its reinforcement of stereotypes and inequality, the family, work, relationships…we’ve gone all over the shop and it’s been “‘mazing” but it’s now half midnight so I’ll jump ahead.

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I hear it’s all relative; that we have a right to be dissatisfied, and furthermore a right to complain, regardless of how much we have, if we can’t get it all, we have a right. I’m still not sure. I’m still not sure how I feel about this. One of the beautiful things about the rehearsal process for this play is that there is almost NO conclusion, there is no fence to sit on and there are no sides…or too many sides, no blacks or whites, it’s just millions of bloody greys and I still don’t know! In other parts of the world women are having their genitals mutilated while others are being stoned to death for having mobile phones…should we be devising plays about gender inequality in a society where we have the right to vote, to have iPADS, to wear what we want, to insert into and remove what we want from our bodies, fly planes, be millionaires?

If the building (the flat, workplace, whatever)  you’re sitting in as you read this started to flood, and before you knew it you were knee deep in ice cold water would you just sit there and continue reading this blog or would you want something done about it? For those who would sit there and say “other people in the world are drowning as we speak, I should be grateful that I only have mild pneumonia and it’s only a dog, other people have lost children” then there’s a possibility you won’t see  the necessity of this play…you might hate the things that slightly aggrieve some of us and you’ll probably scoff at the things that we find kinda funny…for those of you who think “shit it’s cold, crap, my dog’s dead…I want this fixed” then I guess I’ll see you at The Shed for a piece of work that maybe you’ll find a little bit important in a non-wanky genuinely important for this generation kinda way.

See you there…the show runs in The Shed Theatre from the 16th January till the 23rd February


Erm… can you bring Steve McQueen with you? ….Just saying…I wouldn’t be against that?

Michaela xxx


4 Responses to “BLURRED LINES (The Shed, National Theatre)”

  1. John March 22, 2014 at 1:06 am #

    incredible play – the audience were totally with you. Laughed and cried. Was wondering what the song was that played at the end as the play ended

  2. Moth February 6, 2014 at 1:17 am #

    It’s interesting you doubt the necessity of this kind of debate. I think that in order to have any hope of being able to help our sisters who still suffer from the extremes of oppression, abuse and degradation that, thankfully in the wealthy West we do not have to take for granted, it is absolutely essential that we assert our equality as women unequivocally. That assertion does mean ceaselessly seeking fair representation, equal pay, control over our own bodies and, yes, even a music industry that doesn’t belittle us.

    I don’t think a play like ‘Blurred Lines’ would have been staged at the National Theatre five years ago. I’m thrilled that it can be staged today without mass misogynistic outcry. The issues it raises of rape, objectification and a lack of support in the work place are not minor issues. They are issues that affect and hold back women at large from realising their potential and living happy lives. Many women have no voice or will ‘talk the talk’ while still allowing themselves to be treated as less than equal in their work and relationships. It is so important that women like you who do have a voice use that to inspire and strengthen the confidence of women who are held back.

    Yes there are important issues surrounding race, class, education, LGBT rights, disability but debating one societal problem does not negate the importance of another. All these things must be addressed in their turn.

    Don’t underestimate the importance of the work you’re doing here!

  3. PHAEDRA SAWBRIDGE January 18, 2014 at 7:42 am #

    Hi, Michaela

    Thanks for this. Shall try to get along.

    Phaedra Sawbridge

  4. Shanika Warren-Markland January 16, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    I’ma be there next week…OBVIOUSLY!! Good post babe xx

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