Theatre, Hysteria!

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan, three stars

THERE was only one way to round off Hysteria! Annie Grace picked up her ukelele and launched into Milck’s Quiet, now the anthemic voice of women’s protest – against sexism, political leaders and social indifference – all across the world. With George Drennan and Maryam Hamidi backing her in the bridging chorus “Let it out Let it out now There’ll be someone who’ll understand”, the words then allied this production (directed by Clare Duffy) with the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival, becoming a rallying cry to those suffering mental distress in silence.

Inspiration for AJ Taudevin’s cabaret-style onslaught on how sexism pervades attitudes to women came partly from Donald Trump’s behaviour throughout the US election campaign. But, closer to home, there were listening encounters with women who were editing themselves out of life because of depression, stress and social systems that discounted their needs. As a result, Hysteria! marches into territory that is a potential quicksand for humorous gambits with a very clear idea of whose side Taudevin’s on and who deserves to be pilloried. From the doctors who decreed hysteria arose, solely, from having a womb, through the writers and film-makers who depicted women as panicky, unstable creatures and on to the present times – where women’s rights are compromised by legal statutes on benefits, abortion and birth control – Taudevin’s targets are symbolic of patriarchal manipulation. Luckily George Drennan is happy to be a team-player when delivering a mocking song and dance, while Annie Grace and Maryam Hamidi – black-suited, like Drennan – are spot-on as designated bad guys. It’s kind of a scatter-gun format, but there’s no doubting the sincerity when all three evoke the women who suppress their inner anguish – Hysteria! is a well-intentioned howl on their behalf.