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March 12, 2012 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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Review – Space Bitches

Cast: Kathleen Burns, Alice May Connolly, Delia Cormack, Lucy Mulholland, Hamish Parkinson, and Andrew Todd
Music by Tobias Brockie, and Richard Marks.
Written by Erin Harrington and Hamish Parkinson.
Directed by Hamish Parkinson.
BATS, 29th March, 8pm.

By the time this review reaches your grubby wee hands, the Fringe Festival – a rare opportunity to see up-and-coming talent treading the boards, producing weird, off-beat, and fabulously fun theatre – will already be over. Which is a shame, because if you didn’t see Space Bitches you missed a treat.

Part post-third wave Girl-Power extravaganza, part Marvel Comics-style superhero quest, part Lady Gaga, part Mighty Boosh, Space Bitches is a wholly surreal comic caper from the pen of Hamish Parkinson and Erin Harrington. The heroes are sparkle-clad space-divas Honey Laser (Lucy Mulholland), Glitter Storm (Delia McCormack), and Misty Shimmer (Alice May Connelly), who bake cupcakes and defeat the evil forces of patriarchy and inter-galactic capitalism from their Glitter Cave. “Kicking ass” is the modus operandi of these self-identified ‘bitches’, but always with a social conscience: this is women’s empowerment for the Occupy generation.

The script is clever and hysterically funny in places, the dance and musical numbers in particular performed with great élan. The real power of the production, however, derives from the energy and commitment of the cast, who occupy their roles with such verve that it’s hard for the audience not to share their enthusiasm. Special mention must be made of super-villain Jewel Chills (Kathleen Burns), who not only gets to deliver many of the best lines in the show with great aplomb, but also belts out a truly impressive solo.

The swift pace of the action and the madcap energy of the actors is also a source of weakness for Space Bitches. There are points where the script succumbs to wordiness, and the tempo slows noticeably. Maintaining the energy while keeping the plot (more-or-less) on the rails is a problem the play never quite resolves. Such moments are few and far between, however, and few audience members are likely to be bothered about plot-holes you could fit a space-polar bear through.

Space Bitches has been criticised for its lack of serious engagement with the political and moral issues it raises, and its problematic attitude to violence. The latter objection is harder to dismiss: one of the early scenes shows intergalactic arms-dealer John Chills Jr (Parkinson) being gruesomely stomped to death by our plucky heroines. But there is a cartoonish quality to the violence that at once seems to send up the conventions of the superhero genre and insulates it from reality. And despite its provocative title, Space Bitches is a farce wearing its heart on its sleeve, not a sophisticated discourse on gender politics. That’s not to say there aren’t some genuinely disquieting themes and issues raised (not least some faintly shocking scenes involving childbirth), but the play’s chief purpose is to entertain, and, in this respect, it was a roaring success.

 Space Bitches runs from 28 February to 3 March at 8pm.

 

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