The Bogus Woman
Leicester Haymarket Theatre @ Queens Theatre
1:00pm, Sat 18 Mar 2006
The Bogus Woman is one of those plays that the New Wave of Fringe producers seem to love; it’s a multi-character piece played by one actor, so it’s cheap to tour and guarantees (at least) the perception of value-for-money to the audience. And that’s fine – it certainly shows off the technical abilities of the actors – but it doesn’t carry the “WOW” factor that it once did… especially with the plethora of one-man-shows that are around at the moment.
But onto the story: we follow the ordeals of one Young Woman who, after the mass murder of her family and her subsequent rape and torture, flees her native country and arrives in England, where she is arrested and interrogated at Heathrow Airport. From there, she is incarcerated in a refugee “centre”, where she experiences brutal conditions and the resultant cries for humanity: pleas, protests, riots.
Eventually she is released and ekes out a joyful existence in London, relying on the kindness of others to support her hope for immigration. A few cruel twists of fate tear this existence from her, reducing her to a street urchin, forcing her into prostitution, and eventually seeing her arrested and deported – leading to the end that we all, somehow, knew was coming.
This Kay Adshead play won oodles of plaudits when performed at Edinburgh in 2000; considering the treatment that refugees receive in this country by the hands of “our” Government, this play can be seen as a topical, yet overtly political, piece of work. Sarah Niles plays the (allegedly) 48 characters in the piece – plus the Bogus Woman herself – and is stunning… powerful describes her performance best.
The Bogus Woman certainly gathered a lot of word-of-mouth momentum during the course of the Fringe; the matinee I attended, on the closing weekend of the Fringe (traditionally a dead time for crowds), certainly garnered a solid house at one of the Fringe’s largest theatrical venues. And that’s great for the Fringe, and great for theatre. But I left the theatre sadly underwhelmed. I don’t know whether it was ninety-show malaise, or that I had been led to expect more than what any performance should be able to provide. Yes, it was a technically wonderful performance, and it certainly was a powerful script – but it failed to engage me as much as other performances.