Watching a performer in a space like The Old Red Lion is a singular experience, and one that creates an intimacy with the audience that can’t be achieved in quite the same way in a bigger venue. Hear Me Howl, which is playing at the pub’s theatre space until 29 September, makes the most of this and utilises the small space to tackle some big themes.
You might see the play, which stars Alice Pitt-Carter as 29-year-old (almost 30!) Jess, described as ‘pro-choice’, and it’s true that the story – that of a millennial woman who wakes up to her unhappiness only when she discovers she is pregnant – is primarily concerned with Jess and what she wants.
But like all responsible narratives around the issue of abortion, it considers all sides and passes judgement on none of them. For that, it is incredibly refreshing.
But Hear Me Howl is more than the writer Lydia Rynne’s political soapbox and has a lot to say about the cyclical, societally-enforced dissatisfaction with one’s life that has become something the current generation of ‘little adults’ has become fixated with. With a drop in young people getting married, having children or even having a steady ‘young professional’ job outside of the gig economy, girls like Jess are looking inwards with more purpose.
Rynne litters the monologue with hilarious asides and references that will instantly (and did in my performance) chime with the millennials in the audience.
It sometimes takes a shock, and finding out you’re expected to take care of another life when you live in a rat-infested basement flat with a boy you’re only ‘half in love with’ can do that to a person. How can you have a child when you can’t even remember to order the paper clips at work? The audience can tell from the beginning that Jess doesn’t want to become stuck with the life she’s been merely existing in, and her fear and uncertainty manifests in a newfound love of – of all things – post-punk.
Pitt-Carter is a joy to watch, using every inch of the space available to her and interacting with her single prop – the drum kit at the centre of the set – as if rebuilding it is the same as rebuilding Jess’ shattered psyche. Praise must also be given to director Kay Michael for the dynamic experience that Hear Me Howl could easily not have been.
Walking out of the theatre, you may not immediately want to trawl Facebook for an earnest punk band or swap all of your clothes for a single tie-dye tshirt, but you might just have a little think about your own life – the choices you’ve made, the roads you never turned down, and the utterly unifying experience of feeling disconnected from what people expect you to do.
Hear Me Howl is a cathartic 70-minutes of repressed anger and confused sadness, and it will leave you with the same sense of hope and purpose that Jess allows herself to discover.