Beautiful at the ballet: No Place For A Woman @Theatre503

No Place For a Woman combines music, movemement and storytelling to present a haunting tale on human emotions and the desire to survive. And that despite it all, everything really is beautiful at the ballet. It's currently at Theatre 503.

Written by Cordelia O'Neil, this two-hander brings out the fine detail of two women's lives that are intertwined during conflict. It is set in Poland at the end of the Second World War, but there is something universal about the themes that make you feel as if it could be any time or place during conflict.

The premise is that as allied forces are interviewing the two women a story emerges. The wife of a prison camp commandant was throwing a party and she asks her husband to get champagne. But instead he brings home a ballet dancer from the camp. And they keep her.

The two women, Annie (Ruth Gemmell), and Isabella (Emma Paetz), recount what happens next. Paetz has a survivors instinct and its clear she will do whatever it takes to stay alive. Gemmell unravels in her isolation and desperation to cling to her lonely aristocratic life. Everything seems a little hazy in their recollections and justifications for their actions. But in the fog of war anything is possible.

It's given emotion weight with underscoring by Elliott Rennie on a cello, concealed by a gauze. Sarah Readman’s lighting also splits the stage in half with a line of white light. The effect is to differentiate the sides the two women are on. But during war, it sometimes hard to tell which side people are on.

A beautiful looking production full of emotion and substance. Directed by Kate Budgen, No Place For A Woman is at Theatre 503 until 27 May.


Photos by Jack Sain

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