Thigh Gap at La Mama tracks how the demands of patriarchy turn us into monsters, says Robert Reid
Jamaica Zuanatti’s new play, Thigh Gap, is an increasingly breathless sit-com romp. What begins as a kind of re-gendered Odd Couple finishes as a frantic absurdist race through the clichés and contradictions of contemporary life, excavating the demands it places on young women.
Zuanatti tracks obsessions with exercise and diet, dating and boyfriends and struggles with work, especially as a young woman being passed over for promotions by newer male employees. But this slice-of-life eye on two single twenty-something women in the big city spirals manically out of control, leaving them suspended in the final blackout like Thelma and Louise in their Ford Thunderbird over the Grand Canyon.
We meet Iris (Veronica Thomas) alone in her pink flat sprawled on her pink couch watching the tv, a black blot in a monochrome singlet and loose black pants. She’s joined in the next scene by the other black blot, Gemma (Lauren Mass). Business suited, relentlessly positive, her cheery demeanour seems pulled tight over a roiling mass of unspoken thoughts and feelings. Gemma is moving in, replacing Iris’ ex-boyfriend, only ever known as “Bartender”: according to Iris, a mythically beautiful man, a male unicorn.
These two women are terrible influences on each other. When they first meet, each seems, after a fashion, to have their life together. Iris, a professional artist, is cynical, detached, scowling at the world around her, while Gemma is a corporate professional with a positive disposition and a pet rabbit.
Over the days and weeks that follow, they shift from complaining and comparing their lives, to going out to clubs and passing out drunk, to finally having breakdowns at work and eating the pet rabbit in a pie. It’s as if the presence of each woman picks away at the scabs of each other, until their anxieties and neuroses are gloriously on display.
They never achieve the ideals they’re attempting to live up to at the beginning of the play, but by the end they have abandoned all these supposedly civilising expectations of how to behave, becoming monsters of pure ego and desire. Is this what’s truly inside us all, we human animals, or is this what trying to conform to patriarchy’s impossible standards has done to these two women?
The production, directed by Alice Darling, takes a while to get going but once it builds up steam, it’s a roller coaster. The two women are both fantastic. Mass has great energy and Thomas displays terrific focus and control. The writing is a little patchy here and there, but it also makes acid observations about contemporary life throughout and is very funny.
The subject matter and performances remind me of Broad City. By the end, Iris and Gemma are unrecognisable: they seem to have almost become one person, with the same chaos and the same pain. And the same horrified expression, staring out into the dark as the blackout falls.
Thigh Gap. Written by Jamaica Zuanetti. Directed by Alice Darling. Dramaturgy by Keziah Warner. Set and Costume Design by Sophie Woodward. Lighting design by Georgie Wolfe. Sound design by Raya Slavin. Performed by Veronica Thomas and Lauren Mass. At the Carlton Courthouse, La Mama. Closed.