Content Warning: Gender-Based Violence, Sexual Assault.
Did you know The Beatles didn’t become popular until teenage girls noticed them? F-Bomb Theatre have played an ace card in drawing up a character piece, sit-com style comedy which flings you into the debates surrounding women’s safety through a smart medium. It is an incredibly refreshing play, with performances from the heart. Above all, it is an exceptionally urgent message providing nuance, style and multiplicity to the voices against a culture of violence against women.
Daisy is an influencer who finds herself at a spiral of events after a well-justified outburst about women’s safety on her Instagram Live. Her housemate, Violet, just wants to get home safe at night and worries about her friend’s newfound fame and the negative attention it might draw. Then there’s Heather, who’s fed up with it all and wants to get on with her life without fear. Spruced in between this rather serious-sounding offering is some seriously funny comedy focused around pop culture.
Daisy’s valiant efforts are met with expected hardship and violent resistance from the Involuntary Celibate (Incel) community. We watch her raise a protest movement, bring it to the Scottish Parliament and be beaten down by the systemic pillars of patriarchy. Rachel O’Regan’s script is especially smart with the way it presents the debate surrounding women’s rights activism – how far can you go with petitions and protests? What has to change to make change?
If there was one way to sum up the ethos behind The Beatles Were a Boyband it would be unafraid and thorough. The women in the show are fully fleshed out characters with lives, stories and reasons for why they react differently to the killing of another woman on the streets. Besides helping to convey the central message of resistance, this makes them deeply likeable people to spend one hour with. From heated debates about whether Bridesmaids is the best comedy of all time, to deep conversations about whether women-only nightbuses are the way forward. The show is stylistically fine-tuned to a T, engaging many who would switch off at the idea of a play about activism and women’s safety. Audience members were engaged within the piece too, especially effectively during a mock stand-up set featuring Heather which is a piercing, potent and hard-hitting section.
Linzi Devers’ performance as Daisy is a stunning achievement. She very daringly presents the arc of a woman who is radicalised in needing to fight for her own safety. Through Daisy’s social media engagement, she builds a network of solidarity which she uses to try and break down barriers and fight the government’s inadequate response to male violence. Her ‘slump’ after the petition fails to make an impact is something I’m sure all activists have experienced. The three’s eventual epiphany is that so much emphasis has ben placed on women, that they really need to change tact and fight to get men to change their behaviour.
Sally Cairns’ Violet becomes political in a different way, buying permanent dye to mark attackers’ clothes. This discussion surrounding direct action is deeply meaningful and feels immediate, present, and needed. Kirsten Hutchison’s performance as Heather initially appears to be comic relief, but digging under the surface uncovers the truth that all women have a story.
Aimee Shields’ tight direction allows us to feel that we are in a safe place to explore these themes – the humour never bleeds into the dire, the performances choreographed to bring a blend of empowerment with a light-hearted touch to offset and re-engage. The production design is an absolute treat, with motifs of flashing lights recurring throughout and a creative use of flowers to serve as a timely reminder of how existential a challenge to our characters’ lives they face.
It’s an immensely urgent piece of theatre and probably the most cohesive and all-encompassing piece of art exploring the wake of Sarah Everard’s death, an issue which women relive each day often with fatal consequences. Unafraid, defiant and audacious. The performances thrill and connect you with a world worth fighting for. The cast take time to highlight using your privilege to make change and call out men directly to act. The Beatles Were a Boyband is a vibrant, kickass call to action in light of a culture of male violence.
Recommended Drink: The Beatles Were a Boyband is a Paloma on a hot day – refreshing, fizzing all over and not to forget – with a bite.
Catch The Beatles Were a Boyband every day between August 7th and 13th at 20:00 in Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose – Big Yin. Tickets are available through the EdFringe Box Office.
Our Editor-in-Chief, Jake is a theatremaker and playwright interested in political theatre, new writing, comedy and international theatre. They have a particular interest in the post-Soviet space, Queer performance, British grassroots politics and Scottish new writing. They started their Fringe journey in 2018 and is an avid festival-goer. Their favourite drink is an IPA – no hops held back.
Festivals: Edinburgh Fringe (2018-2019, 2021-2022), Brighton Fringe (2019), Paris Fringe (2020)