BINGE! with Mighty Heart Theatre: Feel-Good Feminist Fun
By Sacha Crowther
Mighty Heart’s last hurrah pays tribute to a troubled past, swims in happy memories, sharply comments on today’s society and speaks to future generations with hope and guidance. That’s no mean feat for two women in just an hour on stage.
For much of BINGE!, Lisa and Sam of Mighty Heart look back over the past four years as a feminist theatre company characterised by honesty and compassion. This is not a play. There are no characters. This is a memoir dipped in sequins and covered in feathers.
Although the pair defy theatrical norms, the trajectory of BINGE! follows a carefully plotted course from playful delight through to pain. Through their storytelling and explanations, it feels like the cast are purging themselves: out with anger, sadness and even embarrassing confessions. Ultimately, the bounding silliness with which the show began calms to a pair of torchlit puppets finding the freedom to fly away from it all.
Lisa Hoctor bravely shares her troubled past, expressed with the perfect balance of conversational humour and poeticism. Sat in a bright yellow armchair, she moves the room to tears with in depth descriptions of PTSD and the solace she finds in food. But this autobiographical material steers clear of self-indulgence. From that very same armchair, Hoctor duets with her stage partner, Sam Edwards, on the crushing consumerist society in which we live. Two chicks (actually dressed as chickens) with a ukulele, regale us with insightful political comment to a satirical compilation of iconic advertising slogans. Pure genius.
From the trauma of addiction and eating disorders comes the birth of a beautiful friendship. The women behind Mighty Heart bounce off each other with such enthusiasm that you can’t help but want a friend like that. Nostalgia floods the room as this inspiring journey nears its conclusion. The golden balloon bursts.
Even the unborn baby on stage plays her part. Mabel (Edwards’ daughter-to-be) is the symbol of future hope. We watch as Lisa and Sam take everything they have learnt and pass it on, in the hope that the future generation can skip all the pain.
To pass judgement on this production would be to force these vivacious women into the box that they so desperately reject. Their honest assessment of theatrical art sheds light on a career of judgement, rejection and an industry that too often chews up creativity and spits it out. But I will say this: the pair are effortless in a production that requires emotion, singing, tap-dancing, trampolining and energy by the bucketload.
Sitting in the intimate fringe venue, I can’t remember a time I felt part of a more supportive audience. ‘Girls Support Girls’ was cranked up way beyond maximum volume. An audience can’t help but be captivated by the warmth exuding from the ladies on stage. They welcomed us into the fold and I felt like I knew them. I found myself smiling at their memories as if they were my own; I was moved to the brink of tears by their honest expression of struggle.
BINGE! puts self love in the spotlight and makes the audience feel fab. It’s honest, brave and pure feel-good silliness, whilst being political, feminist and challenging. Just gorgeous.
Catch Mighty Heart Theatre in their final production at HOME, Manchester from 18th-20th January.
Photo by Rachel Bourke