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You May Go Now

By • Off-West End
WOS Rating:
You May Go Now opens with a scene which, in a week when the world is marking National Women’s Day, reminds the audience how far women have come. The play, sub-titled A Marriage Play , opens in a 1950s kitchen, cleverly conceived by designer Joe Schermoly, where Dottie teaches daughter Betty how to be the perfect wife. She must make supper for her husband, listen sympathetically to his problems and not talk about herself. Most important, Dottie tells her, “you will do what you are told”.

Opportunities for humour abound and Florence Hall brings a comic naivety to the role of Betty, with Lucy Newman-Williams a convincing Dottie. But beneath the comedy runs a darker current. In the midst of cake-making, Betty bursts out with questions about her body and sex, they exchange a long and inappropriate kiss and Betty tries to hide under her mother’s skirt. Betty has never played outside and only goes out accompanied by Dottie. Her limited knowledge of the world is gleaned from the Reader’s Digest.

Today all this is to change. It is Betty’s 18th birthday and Dottie gives her a cake bearing the message “Goodbye”, a packed suitcase and a one-way bus ticket. She must go and find herself a husband. This is an engaging start, balancing the real and surreal in an unsettling mix.

However, as the play unfolds the balance shifts. The minute Betty leaves, Dottie transforms into a modern wife, writing her book on the kitchen table and telling husband Robert (Ryan Early) to get his own dinner.

Some time passes and Betty returns with a potential husband for herself, Philip (Michael Benz), and puts her wifely skills into practice. But Philip has something to tell her. Without giving too much away, his horrific revelation, which draws on recent true events, also reveals playwright Bekah Brunstetter’s purpose: to explore how such events occur in the real world. However, this challenging subject sits uncomfortably with the surreal world and comic tone of the play. Brunstetter also fails to address the true horror of Betty’s story, showing her learning she is the victim of a woman she loves, but sidestepping the pain such knowledge would bring. You May Go Now is a daring but ultimately flawed play.

- Louise Gooding


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