Review: Bloody Difficult Women (Riverside Studios, online)

An entertaining dramatisation of the verbal tussles between PM Theresa May (Jessica Turner) and activist Gina Miller (Amara Karan), as they faced off over Brexit.

Tim Walker’s play Bloody Difficult Women uses short scenes and monologue to tackle themes of political machinations, media influence, and misogyny.

Miller famously took the UK government to court over whether it had the authority to trigger Article 50 (starting the withdrawal from the European Union) without parliamentary approval.

It is about party privilege, ethics (never so relevant as here and now in the shadow of Partygate), and the influence of the patriarchy.

Amara Karan in Bloody Difficult Women

Stephen Unwin’s production delivers its point in scenes which echo news soundbites or Twitter arguments. With Nicky Shaw’s backdrops placing us in the locations from Number 10 out, and John Leonard’s punchy music which gives each scene break the urgency of breaking news, we feel in the moment.

As a digitsl production the tight box structure of the set feels claustrophobic on screen, which may add another dimension when observing how both May and Miller find themselves trapped in a man’s world which drips with condescension and vile banter.

“When a man takes a stand on something, he’s a maverick. When a woman does it, she’s hysterical”, says Miller around the halfway point, hammering home how our present PM may court favour.

Production shot from Bloody Difficult Women

Fictional characters help pep up the story, filling the shiny black suits and dull suits of those in power. The real characters, notably Paul Dacre of the Daily Mail (a sinister Andrew Woodall) seems on the brink of foul-mouthed caricature, designed in broad strokes.

“Nobody under 60 is running this country”, notes May’s chief adviser, highlighting the status quo and detachment from the Remainers (it was a referendum with a result just slightly over 50% in favour of leaving the EU, remember).

This play might not have the political nous of This House by James Graham, but does attempt to draw some satirical points from a decision which is still causing instability within the political sphere.

You can watch the stream of Bloody Difficult Women, filmed in March 2022 at Riverside Studios, until 3 May – tickets here.

Image credit: Mark Senior