This little gem of a production is perfectly timed, as the aftermath of #metoo dominates national media. An overwhelming amount of people of all gender identities have come out to tell their stories of sexual assault and harassment, and ‘Lady in the Sheets’ explores the experiences of four women of colour living in the same apartment block. Sita is a stay-at-home mother with multiple men in her life who expect her to be available whenever they fancy. Fatima cares for her baby in the flat next door. On the other side live the elderly Aunti-ji and her helper Flora.
The show is very much a tableau of women’s experiences and offers a peek into how (sexual) violence has affected their daily lives. Unfortunately, it’s just that: a peek. The limited length of the play keeps the audience from really getting to know the characters – so when they speak of defining moments in their lives, it can be hard for the audience to connect with them as more than another distant news story. Much time is invested in keeping the performance funny and optimistic through songs and jokes, which perhaps could be better spent on developing the characters’ story arcs.
Charithra Chandan as Auntie-ji takes the show to a new level. It’s always tricky playing older characters in student theatre, as the risk of stereotyping is so high. But Charithra’s subtle physical acting hits the nail on the head and her soft, sarcastic interjections keep the production light-hearted. Her story is about the struggle to try and make ends meet in a hostile society which does not accept her and her family as equals, as well as the strain this puts on her marriage. When she tells us her story in a sad and tired voice, we can’t help but sit on the edge of our seats to catch every word.
This production is a heart-warming story of connection between four oppressed women, displaying some excellent moments which are mostly a product of the wonderful cast. The writing could be structured better to help the audience identify with the women, but all in all, it’s a lovely show that brings a welcome interruption to 5th week blues.