In 1918, women finally achieved the vote in the UK following the campaigns of the infamous Suffragette movement. But the struggle was far from over – this new Act covered just 2 in 5 women at the time and it took another decade before women could vote in the same capacity of men. Since then, women have been and still are fighting for different aspects of their agency and these monologues voice a spectrum of those experiences.
“We’re reclaiming the history and we’re reclaiming the word” – curator Vicky Featherstone.
Snatches is vivid and disconcerting through necessity, breaking the taboos that otherwise silence the truth of women. The slang term reflects the way sexuality is unapologetically dealt with in these stories from devastating violence to empowering light-hearted defiance. Subtitled Extraordinary Stories inspired by Ordinary Women, the goal is to showcase women who rebel through their existence within spaces deemed unfit for them. Performed by a showcase of great British talent like Killing Eve star Jodie Comer and Misfits icon Antonia Thomas and through this theatrical medium, each of the writers shine in crafting of powerful, emotive stories in just 15 minutes.
The intersectionality of modern feminism is reinforced throughout: weaving through past, present and future issues for black women in Tipping Point and Outside and exploring homosexuality in Bovril Pam. Furthermore, decades after the gaining of the vote, this collection shows the impact of the patriarchal bias still warping the modern justice system. Shirley Henderson’s haunting performance in Pig Life shows how the 1992 criminalisation of marital rape, though progressive, is too late for a woman who has lost years of her life and cannot adjust to seeing herself of a victim. Multiples is more of a success story, in which a professor helps free another woman by overturning incorrect 2003 cot-death statistics, but the insight into the loss of children and the weight of the misplaced blame is heart-breaking.
While some of these pieces like Compliance are more vaguely set to portray an every-woman, others are grounded specifically in lesser-known political events. Reclaim The Night protests a women’s curfew enforced in the 70s while Pritilata is a soldier, fighting for the vote for Bengali women in 1930s colonial India. Though characters of contrasting times and countries, both have a similar defiant confidence to act against male oppression.
I could write thousands of words on this collection but to elaborate on the moments of staging and writing that struck me, these are my top three of the eight episodes:
Performed by Romola Garai, Written by Abi Morgan, Directed by Vanessa Caswill.
Relevant to the rise of the #MeToo movement, the story follows an actress lured into the hotel room of a producer. The initial black-and-white staging and costuming set the story in classic Hollywood and her introduction is sultry and confident as she sips a martini and smokes.
But as she unravels, the wig and make-up are removed and the camera pans to reveal a film set, the glamorous façade replaced by the coloured reflection of a lost, vulnerable woman. As a woman who suits so many eras in her filmography Garai is perfect as this timeless actress. The anachronism is striking, placing this as an issue spanning decades of the film industry (as countless accounts have revealed) and highlighting how assault can overshadow a career.
Within the increasingly disjointed narrative, the fairytale she tells to simplify and distract from her reality turns into a revenge fantasy. What she does next remains to be seen: the open-ended conclusion echoes the difficulty of the decision so many women have had to face, whether to sacrifice a fragile reputation for the sake of justice.
Performed by Corinne Skinner-Carter, Written by Theresa Ikoko, Directed by Vanessa Caswill.
Through a one-sided conversation with her granddaughter Jodie, a rambling old woman builds up a patchwork of the troubles in her life. But the eloquence behind her rapidly shifting story-telling shows political spirit strengthening generation by generation.
Though she begins in her second lifetime, explaining her agoraphobia, weakened and fearful after a sickness, her light-hearted teasing and jokes are refreshing as she shares the wisdom of the golden years of her first. Inequality is ever-present in the glimpses into her life from having a white best friend not allowed within her house and vice versa to talks of the AIDs crisis.
Unlike Compliance’s Edie she talks of the women in solidarity with her. Her mother is an interesting conundrum: having grown up going to political rallies that “weren’t for or about her”, she chooses a little rebellion in voting despite the progression of her pregnancy. But she draws the line there, wary of rocking the boat. Our character remained fearless, fighting in protests and wars for what she deems right, and in this monologue, you can see her trying to pass on her morals: “We are all human, you don’t have to empathise to see what’s right”.
She tells the story of hearing black women being turned away from the army in WWII and joining the auxiliary air forces, looking up to her role model Lilian Bader. Moving to present-day she admires Diane Abbott, the Labour MP, an unlikely “warrior… unapologetically a black, socialist woman, so unafraid to be on the outside if she felt it was the right thing.” In preaching and empowering her granddaughter, she is rejuvenated and puts on her boots “looking like the future” marching out to the sound of war drums – her story isn’t over just yet.
Performed by Liv Hill, Written by Charlene James, Directed by Rachna Suri
One of the youngest characters in this collection and the most entertaining. Eve maintains her harsh Northern tone and unrelenting stare at the camera as she navigates a maze of suspended articles of femininity. Funny at first, she mocks her need for a protector, especially the asthmatic Gary, her thinly veiled anger turns to action.
She doesn’t see her gender as a weakness rather something just as easily associated with strength. I’m reminded of Tracy Beaker as she fantasises about having a huge dog called Lady, with a gold colour leash, with a death stare and growl to warn off men. As she only opened the door to the police because she thought it was the Avon lady, she clearly doesn’t mind being traditionally feminine, she just doesn’t want to be suffocated by it at home.
Set in 1977, the Yorkshire Ripper is on the loose and as per usual, women are blamed for not staying safe and prostitutes aren’t considered innocent because of their profession. While he remains sensationalised and one day everyone will know his name, his victims remain silenced. “What have women done?”
I adore how the objects drop and her narrative turns ruthless, flipping the roles and chillingly questioning every man who dares walk out without a woman to vouch for them. The alternative shows how irrational the attitude is, and how fear of men should no longer weigh upon women. She talks of the awful choice of a young woman being abused by her husband unprotected, taking her chances outside with an unknown killer. The ferocity increases, calling out the double standard of silence surrounding domestic abuse, deemed not sexy enough for headlines.
“What’s the point in telling them to reach for the stars, if they can’t step out of their doors to see them” really resonated with me today. As a woman in STEM the issue lies not just in raising girls to believe in themselves but in making male-dominated workspaces safe and comfortable. Toxic masculinity is being raised in public conversation through people like Terry Crews, but there is still a long way to go.
This anthology is a celebration of the power of the individual in shifting the status quo but a reminder of the strides that still need to be taken. Available on BBC iPlayer in the UK.
by Fatima Sheriff
Fatima is a second year biomed at the University of Sheffield. For insight into her personality, her favourite films are: Bright Star, Paddington 2, Taare Zameen Par and Pride & Prejudice and in 2017 she listened mostly to the Hidden Figures soundtrack. Mainly she is an avid TV watcher, particularly shows with original concepts, witty writing and diverse casting. Examples include Legion, Gravity Falls, The Hour, Gilmore Girls, Sense8... and for more, her Twitter and TVShowTime are both @lafatimayette.