Meet Xoe, Pia & Lou – also known as the Sirens! I’m sure you’ve all heard about the seductive, man-eating bird-women from Greek mythology, who lured sailors to their deaths with their beautiful & hypnotic singing voices, right? The original femmes fatales. But what if that was all a complete pile of bullshit? That’s right, it was all a complete setup by Zeus, ultimately designed to demean & discredit women, keeping the patriarchy fully intact and in complete control. The myth about their deadly voices gets passed down through history – thanks to Homer – and all they can do is follow it through a portal to try and stop its spread…
Unfortunately they land in Hastings in 2019, not quite managing to prevent the book from having an effect on the works of Aristotle, Martin Luther, Charles Darwin and the like. Having come to the conclusion that it was their voices that killed all of the men that arrived on their Greek island home, they are forced to try and find the book’s whereabouts (as well as navigating the unfamiliarity of the 21st century) by only talking to women – though they find a bit of a loophole in the curse when they accidentally speak around Jake, who happens to be deaf. Together they discover that the book is being kept in the museum in Hastings and plan a heist to recover it, though going back to their old lives after this invigorating experience may be easier said than done.
In parallel with Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s firestarter Emilia, Alex Howarth has identified the importance of a woman’s voice and how it can often be silenced altogether by the mere presence of a man, the consequences ranging from mild inconvenience to serious danger. Using the Sirens as the basis for this message is a really clever conceit, as they’re a clear example of how women can be both objectified and dangerous if not kept in check, as well as being a much more interesting ‘origin story’ for perceived female inferiority. It eloquently expresses the anger that probably all women have felt at one point or other in their lives – expected to look a certain way, stick to particular jobs, get overlooked in favour of men. Its sobering ending expresses a sadly recognisable truth, and leaves us with something to remember: don’t stop living.
Ingeniously, this message can be passed on to a far wider range of people than most shows, as Zoo Co are fully accessible and operate a policy of relaxed performances for all; in the case of Sirens this means BSL and creative captioning, with freedom for the audience to make noise or pop in & out of the auditorium should they need to – they do have to lower the lights so the captions can be read, and the music has to be quite loud in order for one of the actors to feel it, but it’s such a gripping & entertaining show that hopefully this environment won’t make anyone feel uncomfortable for too long. The captions are fantastic, as they’re positioned to show who’s saying each line, and the backdrop is also used to project some virtual sets & props (designed by Timothy Kelly) which are fun as well as being helpful for storytelling.
The cast is made up of Rosalind Hoy (Xoe), Fleur Angevine Rooth (Pia), Kate Donnachie (Lou/Nadia), William Grint (Jake), and Nick Gilbert (Stuart/Zeus). With boundless energy and great commitment, they bring the show to life in the most engaging and unexpected ways; not only are there a few songs that shake things up a bit, but they also work in a Hastings montage and an inflatables masque… It has to be seen to be believed! Hoy, Rooth & Donnachie lead the show with vigour, finally giving the Sirens their voices back.
My verdict? A rip-roaring show that shares a vital feminist message and champions increased inclusivity in theatre – consider the history books rewritten!
Sirens ran at Greenwich Theatre from 20-23 June 2019. Full details of the tour can be found on the official website.