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Bare Reality: a play by women, about women, for women


This is just a quick one to tell you about a fab show I saw at the weekend called Bare Reality at the brand new MGSO4 Arts Festival in Epsom and Ewell. It was on for just one night, but the show was so utterly fab, and there’s a chance it may tour. So if it does, go see it.

It’s a show based on the book Bare Reality, by Espom photographer Laura Dodworth. Laura spent two years interviewing and photographing 100 women so she and they could tell the story about their breasts and their lives. The result – both in print and on stage – is an extraordinarily honest and moving account of what it’s like to be woman through all stages of a woman’s life, from age 19 to 101. For Laura, Bare Reality was the inevitable result of being a woman, a feminist and a photographer.

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The book was cleverly adapted for the stage and directed by Sally McCormack, head of the Matrix Theatre company, based in Ashtead. And from the outset, no subject is taboo. A cast of 11 characters address the full gamut of women’s experiences from growing up, sexual relationships, porn, eating disorders, breastfeeding, health problems, insecurities, surgery, breast cancer and ageing.

It made me smile. A lot. It also made me cry. Like every woman at Bourne Hall – I’m certain – there were parts I could relate to. But that’s the point, isn’t it?

I really wished I could have taken my mum (but she lives in Australia). She’d have loved it too. And like the rest of us, she’d have laughed, and cried. Both my mum and I carry the faulty BRCA1 gene, which gives us a high chance of developing breast cancer. For mum, that happened when she was in her early 30s. She’s had breast cancer – and beaten it – twice. I did an Angelina Jolie and had preventative surgery before the cancer came.

So maybe, for me, that’s partly why the show was particularly poignant. Although I suspect that every woman there came away feeling a strong connection to one or other of the characters and their stories. The audience was mostly women – but this is a show men should see too. I hope this production tours – these stories need to be brought to life.

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