Feminism meets despair meets terrorism
At the bus stop after Blow Off, two younger women, late teens perhaps early 20s, are talking about what they just saw. 'Why was she fucking the floor, then?' asks one, 'If she wasn't being raped. The thing about things like this – I wish they'd make it more obvious.' Blow Off is targeted at that demographic: switched-on young (but not necessarily) women and their allies. Its ambiguity swings both in its favour and against: the rape is illusory, the assault is more obvious, the reasons behind the protagonist's climactic reaction are deliberately ambiguous and multifarious.
We know the outcome from the start; it is not the what, but the journey through the whys and the whos that makes Blow Off so fascinating. A woman, both anonymous and the everygirl, is walking to her workplace, a building only ever described in phallic terms: pulsing, erect, throbbing. She's thinking of how her mother will react, how her friends, acquaintances, colleagues will emote their pain through sad face smilies and 'wtf's' on Facebook the next day.
She is, in a slightly strained cliché, a ticking time bomb, literally and figuratively. The rape, the assault, the shitty men, the misogyny, the dashed parental dreams, the failure, is all relatable. So why do the women at the bus stop feel so detached?
Frontwoman – and writer / creator – Julia Taudevin is visceral, living her pain in real time, retching and writhing, at odds with the 'ladylike' figure her father had hoped she would be. This rawness is uncomfortable: it goes past breakdown – this is blow yourself up at work. It is an aching depiction of mental health, or a woman at the very end of her rope, or someone that was once 'just like you and me'. It is scary and we don't want to relate to it because we can never know that it won't be one of us one day.
The distressing narrative is chopped up by songs from a backing band who are both invisible and integral – mirroring us, mirroring Julia, composed, in part, by members of Tuff Love. They play, she sings riot grrrl serenades to the situation she has ended up in. A 'green light – go!' refrain leaves the audience in no doubt as to the outcome of this most alienating and empathetic play.
Blow Off, Traverse Theatre, Fringe run ended. On tour, returning in October.