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Blurred Lines (NT Shed)

This devised project at NT Shed promises a 'blistering journey through contemporary gender politics'

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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In the Thicke of it: The company of Blurred Lines
© Simon Kane

Nick Payne and Carrie Cracknell's newly devised show at the NT Shed isn't just etched with lines, it's cross-hatched. First up there's the cast, some familiar faces, others less so, but a line up of character actors (find me a woman who isn't) that spans age, race and religion, though definitely not gender.

Then, the lines these eight extraordinary women deliver, riffing off their previous roles on stage and screen as mothers, sisters, wives, receptionists, prostitutes, murderers and midwives. And finally, cutting through it all, the song lyrics, from NERD's "Lapdance" to Tammy Wynette's "Don't Liberate Me (Love Me)", a track that unnervingly echoes the number one anthem that gives this show its name.

We hear only three notes of "Blurred Lines" itself (Robin Thicke wouldn't release the rights, apparently). But the controversy that its 2013 success sparked is centre stage throughout the many vignettes that play up, down and across Bunny Christie's shiny white MTV staircase of a set.

That the unjust treatment of a frazzled mother by her female boss seems as shocking as the afterlife of a teenager raped by her boyfriend is telling – they are symptoms of the same problem. At times, it feels like a collage of confusion. But the relentless swapping and sharing of stories and roles not only tells what it is to be woman, but hints at a vision of collegiality we could actually achieve if only we could sort this stuff out.

That vision is lent more power by the show's powerful coda, which takes the form of a post-show discussion. One final line-up – male director, female actor, and interviewer – amid a mass of tangled microphone cords. Guess who gets to have the final word. You might just be surprised.