STAGE REVIEW: Women Warriors @ The Exchange, North Shields (09.10.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Jo-Jo Kirkley is a Workie Ticket through and through. She has not faltered in the tireless campaign of getting her theatre company off the ground, and the team has made astounding waves in a short space of time.  The simple truth is that she wants people to be heard, people like herself who have suffered in some way.

So the story goes like this: Jo-Jo was leaving a conference in Durham and saw a Post-It note, which said ‘what about female veterans?’ and so, Women Warriors was born. Veterans were invited to workshops to contribute to the artistic process, which developed into the professional play that premiered at The Exchange Theatre in North Shields.

The audience was full; there was an encouraging atmosphere, with a proportion made up of veteran guests. The play posed a question in each part: firstly, ‘What Makes a Women Warrior?’ To a background of soundbites, the full cast arrived on stage, wearing plain grey clothes so as not to detract from the words spoken. This led to two monologues and another full cast piece sandwiched in the middle.

The monologues had a conversational feel. They raised horrifying issues.  A particularly powerful one discussed that they were gay, but forced to marry someone of the opposite sex, who then turned out to be an abusive partner. This half was intense, bold and intimate.  In the second half, a new question was posed: ‘What Would You Say to the Ministry of Defence?’ There were interesting shapes and movement created by the full cast and another natural monologue, but with a lighter feel.

The energy kept building until we reached the last section, which was a full cast piece in costume, about the Post-It that started the whole project. Running throughout was the notion that cake goes a long way to help any situation.
This last play was funny, touching and warm, and ended with a road trip to London where a heartfelt speech was made and, of course, a slice of cake eaten. This brought down the house and led to a well-deserved standing ovation and rapturous applause. 

There was a lot to digest and follow, but all of the work raised important questions; things about female veterans that we would not have thought about before. The legacy of Women Warriors is that there is a need for female veterans to be trained and employed to support other female veterans and it feels like this is just the beginning of their story.

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