Review: Emily Writes, Rants in the Dark
Rants in the Dark is a play based on the book, based on the blog by Emily Writes, whose rant in the dark “went viral” overnight, and led to her creating a space on the internet where Mums who occasionally (or regularly) say fuck can find their life experiences reflected and validated.
A world that’s not Pinterest-perfect, and where the deep love and frustration of mothering co-exist, and the fact that mothering is hard, and also wonderful, and funny and tragic and mundane and brilliant is openly acknowledged.
The play is a three-hander with Renee Lyons (engaging, funny, authentic) in the lead role, with Bronwyn Turei and Amelia Reid-Meredith playing all the other people in Emily’s life (Bronwyn doing a great job as Emily’s husband, and Amelia captured the wonder of a preschooler as their son Eddie).
There’s lots to like about this show, which gets off to a grand start, when coloured plastic balls descend and litter the stage (a few enterprising souls grabbed one at the interval to throw, in lieu of flowers, at the curtain call)
Emily’s writing is so loved by so many, that translating the voice in people’s heads when they read the blog, to a real life version on stage may prove jarring for some. My friend who accompanied me (who has 3 older kids), and another friend who has a baby, both said they resonated with some of it, but other bits didn’t reflect their personal experience. One said it felt almost a bit “preachy” on stage: a lot of it is told, stand-up style, by direct address to the audience.
The reaction of the audience was at times united, at others uneven. Sometimes the roars of laughter and groans of recognition were universal, at other points some people laughed, cheered and sobbed louder than others. I suspect this is a play where the life experience you brought to it mattered, and seeing your life and community on stage makes a difference.
The producers are currently working on securing seasons in other centres around the country. I hope they get them: this is a work that many women and men will see aspects of their own lives reflected on stage: some may find it cathartic. Not everyone will like all of it: it will be a bit sweary for some. There’s a risk that, much like first-time parenthood, people may go in with expectations that they’ll be blown away, and find the event leaves them thinking in ways they didn’t expect.
Down the track, this production has the potential to become a Tour de Force. It’s wasn’t quite there yet. There were a few opening night jitters and room to improve the timing, which I expect will get tighter and funnier as the run progresses.
Early on finding the sound balance with the microphones was problematic, and I sometimes struggled to make out what was said at speed – a bit more articulation would help. Things got better in Act 2, as things are wont to do on opening nights, when the cast is still getting used to playing the audience. The material deepens as well.
Emily Writes, Rants in the Dark
Based on the book by Emily Writes www.emilywrites.co.nz
Adapted for the stage by Mel Dodge, Lyndee-Jane Rutherford & Bevin Linkhorn
Director: Lyndee-Jane Rutherford Starring: Renee Lyons, Bronwyn Turei, Amelia Reid-Meredith Designers: Wai Mihinui, Ebony Tiopira-Waaka, Jennifer Lal
Babes in Arms performances. Wednesdays 23 and 30 Jan 10.30am