Review: SHE(ME) – Reclaiming Shame (Brighton Fringe)

Produced by Indigo Arts Collective as a digital production at the Brighton Fringe, SHE(ME): Reclaiming Shame is an entertaining, thought-provoking and witty “exercise in shame resilience”.

Six women spent ten hours on Zoom to devise what has become a forty-four minute piece with a huge list of potential triggers. However, although you know this is going to be a show covering tough subjects affecting women, and it is, it is put together and delivered in a way which hits hard but is anything other than depressing.

There are six major sequences (mostly solo) included within this show, plus five smaller pieces involving the whole company. The smaller segments often use music to make a point: perhaps women’s voices are erased from the picture in a routine about silence and subjugation; or a tape measure is utilised as a constricting comment on the ‘Body Beautiful’; maybe clothes are weaponsied against the male whistle of attention.

Social media and the power of persuasion is a constant theme. We watch a beauty vlogger (“I’m 23, which in female years is practically middle aged”) doing an increasingly ridiculous routine as her voiceover becomes more satirical against influencers who traffic useless products. A Zoom class becomes a discusion of sex and pleasing the man before the instructor comes along. A male therapist discussed body image with a female client while her inner voices make the experience surreal and sharp.

Promotional image for SHE(ME)

I found three sections particularly effective: the use of visual distortion to address details of child manipulation and sexual power, which was both disturbing and direct; a knowing parody of sanitary product advertising which addresses the issue of ‘shame’ around the period process in a witty and original way; and a final piece about the way the murder of women is often justified by victim blaming (how she was dressed, she was drunk, she walked alone, she got in the car, she led him on, she didn’t say no, but he was her boyfriend…’).

Body image and “my body isn’t yours” is a common theme throughout SHE(ME): Reclaiming Shame. Expectations to look a certain way. About seeing, experiencing, owning the body. In a sequence where one woman utilises her gaze in an almost possessive way with a coveted dress, there is a sense that she and the garment are one and the same.

Words, too, are a common theme, whether direct (as on the vlogger scene) or hidden (as on the sequence where words like “ugly” and “slut” are written then consumed, before celebrating the burden of women of the past, giving strength to those here and now.

All six women in the company – Jade Flack, Marie-Jose Fulgence, Lisa-Marie Flowers Larsen, Lia Marin, Jessica Porter and Georgia Rona – under the direction of Shea Donovan, are brave and honest in their approach to the material., utilising voice, raction and movement to get the message across. The show itself has a pleasing episodic style and excellent production values.

Fringe rating: ****

You can stream SHE(ME): Reclaiming Shame at the Brighton Fringe until 27 June. Book your ticket (£5) here.

For more about the Indigo Arts Collective go here.