As I entered the theatre, ready to watch Domestic Labour: A Study in Love, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I think it’s fair to say that I’m something of a novice when it comes to writing about performance. In fact, before embarking upon this series of theatre writing workshops, my main experiences of the genre had been regular trips to Christmas pantomimes, punctuated by the odd Shakespeare play.
Suffice to say that I felt a little out of my depth.
I needn’t have worried though. Domestic Labour: A Study in Love is a compelling piece of theatre, staged with wit, humanity and humour, using the concept of domestic drudgery as a tool to examine cultural and social attitudes to gender roles within modern relationships.
But what made this show really interesting for me was the fact that its main theme was not immediately obvious. Well, not to me anyway.
In fact, the fractured narrative and stream of consciousness-style dialogue – spoken by the show’s three female performers – seemed to describe a very ordinary life, that of a housewife awaiting the return of her husband, while running a household and raising a young daughter.
The story seemed fairly unremarkable at first, and I wasn’t entirely sure that anything original was being conveyed. Still, the staging felt exciting and playful, and I was enjoying the slow unveiling of the central relationship, so I wasn’t too fussed.
It wasn’t until part way through the piece – when the dialogue shifted to discuss the previous conquests of our protagonist – that I suddenly realized that the narrative voice was male, and all my assumptions up to this point had been wrong.
While the show may not surprise everyone in the same way, my mid-point realization really forced me to consider my own preconceptions, and the insidious nature of stereotyping and assumed gender roles, which are clearly more pervasive than many of us would like to think.
For me, the best art compels us to ask questions not only of our surroundings, but also of ourselves, and I really felt that Domestic Labour: A Study in Love was successful in this respect.
Still, some aspects of the piece felt a little under-developed.
There were references to mixed race relationships and political instability in Iran, but these issues were not fully realised and so, felt a little peripheral to me. That being said, the company succeeded in creating an intimate portrayal of a relationship, in a show that was witty and engaging from start to finish.