Review by Emma Whitelaw
IT IS indeed a humbling experience to bear witness to such brilliance
as that which was both on and off stage at the Hampstead Theatre
on Thursday night.
RL Nesvet's award-winning The Shape Shifter received its
British premiere to a full house in a rehearsed reading presented
by Cheeky Maggot Theatre Company.
Extremely well written, directed and performed, the event was
a huge success, and a credit to all involved.
The Shape Shifter is both thought-provoking and timeless.
Its themes are as relevant today as they were in the 19th Century.
Questions of social identity, individualism, gender and sexuality
are greatly significant in all the events that unfold.
Anna Tollput gave a stunning performance as the young teacher,
Alice Barbin. Having lived 18 years of her life as a woman, Barbin
was diagnosed, by Dr Gilbert Chesnet, played by Alastair Danson,
as a biological male.
The harrowing consequences of this revelation are highlighted
when Barbin again meets Chesnet years later.
She has left the convent in which she worked, left the woman
which she loved, became a 'man' and tells Chesnet she wants to
set out to sea and become a sailor.
Chesnet warns Barbin that to do so would be most undesirable
as she looks like a woman. Barbin then scoffs at Chesnet as, according
to him, she can be neither man nor woman, to him she has no place
The adorable Lucy Davenport was undeniably brilliant as Barbin's
estranged lover, Agathe.
As a feminist in the making, the young Agathe is not bound by
the sociological rules of gender and sexuality. Her love for Barbin
is unconditional and unshaken by Chesnet's diagnosis.
Another noteworthy performance would be that of Eleanor Montgomery,
as Abbess, the landlady of the convent where Barbin and Agathe
Montgomery was perfect for the role and conveyed Abbess' mother-like
love for Barbin perfectly.
In fact, the entire cast were superb and the night was, in all
respects, a fantastic success.
Having received such tremendous exposure, I sincerely hope that
one day we may see a full production of The Shape Shifter in
all its glory.
The Shape Shifter written by RL Nesvet, directed by Kelly
Wilkinson. Dramaturg Pippa Ellis. Starring Anna Tollputt, Lucy
Davenport, Eleanor Montgomery, Clara Perez, Lorna Bennett, Alastair
Danson and Ashley Cook. Presented by Cheeky Maggot Theatre Company.
For information visit www.cheekymaggot.allhere.com