"Female emancipation makes pleasing cabaret" 20th Century Woman is an intelligent and different cabaret which has popped up in a number of London venues already and looks set for a great future. Performing to a packed house on International Women's Day, the versatile and powerful actress Fiona-Jane Weston took her audience on a tour of the twentieth century through words and song which managed to be a both a thoroughly entertaining evening and an enlightening education in female achievement at the same time.
The multi-talented Miss Weston (she sings as well) and her director Tim Heath have managed to avoid didacticism by allowing the pieces they have chosen from a plethora of different writers and composers to speak for themselves. Although not told in exact chronology, the show loosely charts women's battle for equal recognition in the workplace and beyond. Difficult dilemmas are not shied away from as we see that as women have shown themselves to be capable in high profile and respected professions, so the pressure to be perfect has increased, and this includes the traditional roles of wife and mother. Any danger of this subject-matter becoming over-earnest has been skilfully avoided. There is poignancy in the song of the woman who wants a baby but cannot have one, andrisible satire in the ditty of a contemporary footballer's girlfriend who appears to be turning all the hard-won achievements of her forebears completely backwards.
Luke Meredith gave able support at the piano and with additional vocals which included an accomplished Noel Coward impression.
Although this cabaret has a message, it remains one of celebration and manages not to descend into man-hating negativity which could so easily have happened at the hands of less magnanimous artists. Indeed, the outnumbered males in the audience who had possibly attended under sufferance, were soon expressing their enjoyment through hearty guffaws in the funny bits. Evidence of the predominantly female audience's approval came with their rhythmic hand-clapping and whooping during the finale.
Time Out The first performance of 20th Century Woman – The Compact Cabaret was huge fun. Lots of songs and readings and quite unexpected but entirely logical developments. Good to know that the show will be seen by many more people. Best things: the Lancashire lass doing her war work and the Marlene Dietrich impersonation.