En route to the Theatre Royal I am berating myself for leaving my notepad at home. I mean really: what kind of reviewer forgets to bring anything to take notes on? I needn’t have feared performer Danyah Miller’s judgement: demolishing the fourth-wall as amiably and easily as she might offer somebody a cup of tea, Miller invites the audience to stand if they relate to statements. From last-minute tidying to nagging mums and body image concerns, Miller proves that we are all by admission imperfect.
Perfection is the mission of a young queen as Miller weaves a fairytale which on the surface seems simplistic, even formulaic. Visually, the dynamics and unescapable genetic similarities between picture-perfect monarch and her scaly-skinned princess are rendered neatly with collections of Russian dolls. Kate Bunce’s set harks back to her previous design work on Underneath a Magical Moon: everyday furnishings take on a fantastical quality as Miller switches from storybook stereotypes to the complexities of those real families influencing her tale.
It’s when Miller plants the action into her own upbringing in York that the full impact of the tale is felt. The characters need their nuance to pack some emotional beats: Judy isn’t an ice queen, she’s a mother trying to break free from her own childhood. Diving into the complexities of her family, Miller uproots her family tree to show us her descendents’ vulnerability, but also their unerring devotion to make their mark on the world. Coupled with Martin Thompson’s sound design the show is unavoidably heart-warming: it’s almost as if the fairytale is a screen for the tongue-in-cheek parenting commentary and gut punches ahead.
There is no idyll for the mother, nor a clear-cut path ahead for the daughters in Perfectly Imperfect Women. Likewise, the view of parenthood is somewhat skewed (with no father figures in focus: instead we do get a further sense of struggle for women who may well be single-parenting units) but Miller places a sweet twist on the saying that all women are cursed to become their mothers. Instead of perfection, Miller strives for new beginnings: a surer sign of growth than a false show of having it all figured out. The ending might smack slightly of an after-school special, but it’s impossible not to find Miller’s play every bit as open and endearing as intended. 3/5
Review written by Louise Jones.
Perfectly Imperfect Women was shown at the York Theatre Royal from Thursday 14th until Saturday 16th Septmeber 2017. For more information on the production, visit here…