Vignettes is a collection of six short plays written by Greater-Manchester-based female playwrights. The result is a stimulating amalgamation of shows that will make you laugh just as much as it will make you think. Ranging in political undertones, there remains an underlying tone of frustration about the place of women, people of colour, and members of the LGBTQ+ community in our society.
Limerence, written by Abena Taylor-Smith and performed by the mesmerising Maz Hedgehog, is a strong opener to the Vignettes. The main character, Keziah, pulls us in as she recalls her infatuating love for Alisha: “I am an empty vessel and she is filling me up”. The relationship quickly goes sour, and the play masterfully showcases the obsession tied to love and the hardship of letting go of toxic relationships. The play is punctuated by powerful blackouts that allow the story to shift and allows the audience to ponder on the importance of perspective.
Perspective by Alex Keelan and starring Emily Heyworth, Joe Osborne and George Miller was also a highlight of Vignettes. The play showcases the difficulty of letting go of deeply rooted toxic masculinity, even as a woman. The main character is a female senior manager who has until now thrived in a male-dominated workplace, notably by belittling other women in order to be part of the ‘boy’s club’. We follow her downfall as she realises that she will never be considered an equal by her male counterparts, no matter how much she abandons her own femininity.
Perhaps the jewel of the night was Tangled, written by Debbie Oates and starring Sally Ann Matthews (Coronation Street). We meet recently divorced Joanne who reflects on her life as she is stuck on a tower after a thoughtless parachute jump. The play is a powerful reflection on the intersection between societal change, politics, love and individual bravery. The scene is funny yet moving and is a hopeful outlook on the future and young people.
Although the pace of Vignettes is quick, and the audience is thrown into a completely different world every 20 minutes or so, the plays are well-written and easy to follow. Whilst we only get to spend a few minutes with each character, the writers and the actors have done a beautiful job at developing complex characters that leave a strong impact on the viewer. Each play was visibly thought through – from the simple yet impactful sets to the funny or strong sound effects – it was clear that details were significant and meaningful.
Whilst each play could hold its own and had a distinctive voice, the resulting show was cohesive thanks to the global themes that were touched upon in each play. Overall it felt like a thoughtful celebration of everything that is feminine: the good and the bad as well as everything in between. Together, the plays highlighted the common struggles women face that ties all of us together.