REVIEW: Nine Foot Nine, Bunker Theatre ✭✭

Sophie Adnitt reviews Nine Foot Nine presented at the Bunker Theatre as part of the Breaking Out Festival.

Nine Foot Nine review Bunker Theatre
Alexandra James as Cara in Nine Foot Nine. Photo: Katie Edwards

Nine Foot Nine
Bunker Theatre
2 Stars
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Part of the Bunker Theatre’s Breaking Out festival, a programme providing a platform for emerging theatre companies, Nine Foot Nine offers an intriguing, if somewhat daft, question – what would happen if women across the world suddenly grew to nine foot tall?

Young couple Cara and Nate are getting ready for the birth of their first child when a worldwide affliction suddenly hits – all women suddenly, inexplicably start to grow, with many hitting the heights of nine foot over the space of days. It’s a painful, terrifying process for the ‘sprouters’, as they are soon dubbed. But as time goes on, this ‘sprouting’ becomes an unavoidable fact of life for young women everywhere. Teenage girls race to be the first to sprout, showing off their shining silver stretch marks, even enhancing them with glitter, and throwing parties once the process is complete – comparisons to menstruation are inevitable. Suddenly finding themselves physically stronger than ever before, the women start making social changes that quickly catch on over the next sixteen years and become the new normal. Cara, now a new mother, leaves Nate and baby Sophie to join this new political revolution, sparking a familial divide that will last for years to come.

Nine Foot Nine review
Paul O’Dea as Nate in Nine Foot Nine. Photo: Katie Edwards

This hour-long play by Sleepless Theatre Company has moments of quality, but unfortunately they’re not quite sustainable. The admittedly bizarre central concept is at odds with some attempt at a social message that’s never made fully clear. What’s also frustrating is the lack of explanation. We never find out why women are suddenly growing (and why now?), or how the movement becomes politicised. Whilst the ‘what if’ scenario at the heart of the piece is fun, it’s simply not strong enough to support a play.

Whilst the majority of the script flows well, it too often lapses into moments of over-poeticism, with the jarring sensation that people don’t talk like this in real life. This adds to the feeling that this play is unsure whether it wants to be rooted in realism or the fantastic. The latter half of the hour especially suffers from this as it becomes unfocused and lost. But Nine Foot Nine is best when it deals with real life and all its practicality; a series of advertising jingles for products aimed towards ‘sprouter’ women is a highlight of the evening, and makes a clever point on how no matter how strange the phenomenon, businesses will find a way to profit from it.

Nine Foot Nine review Bunker Theatre
Natalie Kimmerling as Sophie in Nine Foot Nine. Photo: Katie Edwards

Alexandra James, Paul O’Dea and Natalie Kimmerling make an endearing and likable enough trio as Cara, Nate and their teenage daughter, but are too often limited by simplistic direction and writing that draws them back into argument after argument that soon loses its emotional clout. There are beginnings of interesting concepts, for example one scene briefly touches on talk of separating sprouter teenagers from other students, but these are more like throwaways that are never satisfyingly explored.

The performance is captioned, which additionally helps move the action back and forth through the years, but the technical errors on this performance in particular distracted too much from the piece itself. Overall the result is a collection of decent ideas that need serious refinement, and Nine Foot Nine never quite hits the mark.

Until 7 July 2018


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