Olly Hawes brings The Absolute Truth About Absolutely Everything, back to CPT for the third and final time this week. A lot has changed since the show was last here. For more info and to book tickets, click here.
Will we look back and see it as a watershed moment? Are we living in a new world? Has the #metoo movement – and everything else that’s followed it – fundamentally changed things?
I’m not sure (nor, of course, am I the best person to judge this). I’ve spoken to plenty of women who, between them, hold the whole gamut of opinions on the matter: absolutely; absolutely not; maybe.
The possibility that we might be entering into a society that has reframed its narrative towards gender, power and equality excites, inspires and gives me an enormous amount of hope. As a theatre maker, however, it presents me with a bit of a conundrum…
The Absolute Truth About Absolutely Everything is a show about the consequences of patriarchy, performed by me (a white, middle class man in his 30s) and a different, unprepared woman each time. It’s returning to CPT for its third and final stint this week. It was last here in October 2016 (as part of Calm Down, Dear, the festival of innovative feminist performance) – almost exactly a year before #metoo started trending. A lot has changed since then.
When I, Amelia Stubberfield (one of the previous performers) and Matthew Evans (one of the directors of the show), started rehearsals again at the beginning of the year, we asked ourselves: what does this show mean in 2018? How should it change? We tweaked, we edited, we added here and cut there, but the fundamentals stayed the same, the show still felt, fundamentally, relevant. Why?
Back in 2016, the show prompted very strong responses. It was variously described as ‘thrilling’, ‘fabulous’, ‘important’, ‘interesting’, ‘boring’ and ‘abhorrent’. Jessie Thompson, digital arts editor at the Evening Standard, described herself a ‘total fangirl’ for a show where a man ‘holds himself to account for misogyny’. Laura Gilbert, in Exeunt, wrote that the show ‘truly disgusted’ her, calling it ‘sexist’ and ‘misogynistic’. I found it very hard to predict how people would react. When I spoke to friends or audience members afterwards, I never knew what they were going to say, and I was constantly surprised.
It’s the same in 2018. For example, younger people and other artists have often responded positively, but at Chapter (Cardiff’s Arts Centre), a pair of experimental performers walked out of the show before the end in protest, then a group of students pointedly turned their back on me in the bar afterwards, but a middle aged couple enthusiastically bought me drinks eager to discuss the show, and later a quiet, older man took me to one side and spoke very movingly about what the show had made him confront in himself.
Perhaps what this suggests is that, if we are living in a new world, it is the conversation around gender equality that has fundamentally changed, but there is still a long way to go before those words translate into actions. Evolving the conversation is not, in and of itself, enough, but it is the starting point. I hope The Absolute Truth About Absolutely Everything, on its last outing in London, can play its own small part in creating the change we so badly need to see.
The Absolute Truth About Absolutely everything is here Tue 15 – Thu 17 May. Book tickets here.