Cast your mind back momentarily to your school history lessons… who writes history, children? The winners, that’s right. And if history has taught us anything, the winners were almost always powerful men. Good thing that Scratchworks Theatre are here to rip up the history books, then!

 

When a history GCSE History student accidentally summons two muses from limbo with a ‘borrowed’ Roman coin, they are uninspired by her plea to help with her presentation on the cloth making women of ancient Rome. ‘Women must have done more than make cloth! ‘She opines. The muses confer, and instead make their student the hero of a fabricated tale, the story of Leta, Vestal Virgin turned Woman of the People. A sort-of female, Roman Robin Hood, she fights for the poor and pisses off the rich but refreshingly, no maid Marion equivalent pops up to distract her. She’s the disobedient feminist hero ancient Rome needs.

 

From their dressing up box of wonders, the three-strong female cast pull knotted sheet togas, red bristle brushes for Roman helmets and construct the Roman sewer system from hula hoops. Low-tech creativity at its most charming, endearing and funny. The swords and crossbow from the poster don’t actually make an appearance and I wonder why they made a choice to publicise it in this way, the creative use of props is one of the core elements of this show that make us warm to it so much.

 

There are also songs. It can be a challenge being heard in Brick Hall at times, as one of the worst sufferers of noise from the infamous trains overhead, nonetheless they attack every lyric and every line with gusto. It’s a new show, and I expect the acapella delivery will tighten up after a few runs, but for Scratchworks charm over polish works every time! Selecting a lucky member of the audience to join in every show, guarantees the delight of the unpredictable, too.

 

Entertainment heavy and fact light, the emphasis of Womans… is not on educating us but on encouraging us to look for the clues to the stories that aren’t told. What became of Leta is left largely up to us. If you remember your history lessons, how about those ‘writing in role’ exercises from school? Leta’s story begs you to pick up a pen and finish it, or better, to write your own. After all, the worst thing in history is to be forgotten.

 

Brick Hall, Vault Festival, Jan 30th – Feb 3rd, 2019