Review: No.9 at Alphabetti Theatre

‘Agile, informed, and sensitively playful’. Anna Robinson’s debut play is a real tour de force and a stand-out gem for Newcastle’s Alphabetti.

Jake Watson
15th March 2022
Image credit: @alphabetti_theatre on Instagram

TW: Sexual Assault

Anna Robinson's inimitable debut play is a clever and comedic observation of the aftermath of a sexual assault. It traces our main character, played by Lauren Waine, as she navigates coming to terms with her own victimhood and the varying responses of those around her: be it the uncaring attitude she gets from the police or her own doubting parents.

Based on a real experience, as noted at the very start of the play, No.9 is an agonising tale of the injustices that continue to lie within both our institutions and our modes of thinking in British society around sexual assault and harassment. Robinson’s play takes the commonplace event of ‘a night-out in town’ and shows how the actions of one man can cause such a prolonged whirlwind of grief and regret.

Lauren Waine masters the role with precision and perfect timing. She captures with poignancy the comical-awkwardness and the laughable insults of the reactions of those the character encounters, whilst also comically doubling these characters with a myriad of accents and characteristics – from the rough-and-ready London police officers (presented with a tough smattering of Cockney rhyming slang) to the art school tutor who is delighted to hear that the perpetrator was not a member of the university – damage control not needed.

The set of No.9 is also something to behold. Fit with a mustard yellow treadmill and a desk that opens in many weird and wonderful ways (at one point becoming a shower cubicle – it’s worth seeing just for this), it makes the perfect destination for this one-woman spectacle to play out. The show ends with a number of statistics of sexual assault and harassment being placed around the set – a stark reminder that what we’ve just seen in front of us is likely to affect 1 in 5 women in the UK.

It is always a challenge to find laughter in such tough subjects but Anna Robinson and director Paula Penman have managed to achieve such a feat, tackling the focus of the play with playfulness without ever doing a disservice to the serious nature of the sexual assault or to its victims. No.9 is a must-see production.

★ ★ ★ ★


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AUTHOR: Jake Watson
3rd year French and English Literature student at Newcastle University, with an interest in all things Arts, Culture & Food. Fran Leibowitz wannabe. @JMichaelWatson on Twitter.

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