‘So, the question now is, who do the breast belong to?’ And with that question comes an avalanche of provocations about identity, the self, society and the modern sexualisation of both women and children.
Monica Dolan doesn’t articulate this question until a considerable way through her one-woman play, The B*easts, but it’s what she’s been building to. The story centres on an eight-year-old girl, who from a young age desperately wanted big breasts. She finally wore her mother down and got what she wanted on a trip to
The story is disturbingly plausible, made more so by Dolan’s gradual style of revelation through Karen’s psychotherapist, Tessa. Tessa, lit by lamplight and sat in her office armchair, walks us though the signs and stages of Leila’s craving for attention and desire to 'be a big girl'. She also forces us to see Karen, Leila’s mother, as an unwitting victim of social sexualisation herself.
It’s a deliberately challenging play, but it doesn’t allow us to pass judgment on mother or daughter. Rather, Dolan forces us to listen, to consider and to draw the connections that her character says right at the start she makes. The monologue regularly cuts extremely close to the bone, attacking the media and the public’s acceptance of so-called ‘universal truths’. Crucially, she questions the origins of blame and where the ideas of normalcy, innocence and aberration really come from.
Dolan both wrote and performs this incredibly thought-provoking play and excels at both. Moments of mirth and wit lift the script out of the realm of gender polemic or lecture. And Dolan’s delivery makes you feel like she really is just pausing to talk directly to you; that she’s fallen deeper and deeper into her client’s story and simply has to break the silence and talk it through with someone.
Dolan has taken those dark concerns that flicker at the back of our minds about our modern society and laid bare the scale of the personal destruction they have reaped. As a result, this critical analysis of where we are and where we’re rapidly heading as a sexualised and warped society is admirably hard to shake.