A woman sits at the edge of the sea, singing. Every now and then someone approaches her. It’s always a man. Lacking the self-control to resist her charms, he will stop. He’ll awkwardly try to hit on her and disregard her autonomy with a grope or a demand. She will then make him pay for his actions.
It’s the stuff of every woman’s dreams, but the feminist fantasy is discarded quickly in David Elms’s new play. This unnamed woman has been here forever, is destined to be here forever and is actually quite lonely. But because of what she is, she’s unable to forge a genuine connection with anyone.
Elms skilfully employs dry, dark humour to look at how the constraints of the roles we play in society, particularly women, can prevent us from having genuine connections with others. It’s a pointed, effective metaphor for modern life.
Some elements of the design confuse rather than clarify: the set resembles the side of a swimming pool, complete with ladder, rather than a beach; the men that encounter the siren are different, but played by the same actor in the same distinctive costume, the sort of thing you'd see in Southern California. Both these design choices muddle time and place rather than serving the script. The male actor also wears rollerblades – they facilitate his movement, but make no sense in this context.
The performances are occasionally wooden, but Elms’s script shows real promise. The feminist themes certainly have potential to be explored further, particularly in their clash with societal pressures.