You Heard Me
Battersea Arts Centre, London
Writer and performer: Luca Rutherford
Director: Maria Crocker
Dates of run: until October 14, then touring
Running time: 50 minutes
This is a production that comes with warnings – first from the programme and then from the writer and performer, who tells us we are free to leave at any moment if her account of sexual violence becomes too much.
That no-one does is probably because we are free to do so. But the point has been underlined that Luca only managed to break free through the greatest effort of will that defied all the strictures of a man-made society in which women are meant to obey and be lady-like and quiet.
Luca instead bounds around the stage and wriggles in and out of a dress that could be glamorous, but instead is just something to wear, along with trainers and jeans and running shorts, with powerful energy and rage.
The rage is what we should all harness against everything unacceptable, which in this production is attempted rape.
It is above all literal and specific. Luca’s initial account of being leapt upon as she runs before she is about to give a performance because running makes her feel good is so convincing we are practically there.
In reality, she thought she was utterly alone until she drew on her power to scream, a scream mustered in a split second that turns what could be a drama of victimhood and destruction into a drama of empowerment, assertion and survival.
Luca, she tells us with a radiant smile, is “all right”. That makes this play the manifesto of a rising, confident generation of women who have freed themselves from historic shackles and doubt.
It also implies the wider revolution that could stir if we all lock into our rage. The uprising could take as its slogan the brilliant title – “You Heard Me” – that is at once a statement of fact and of fearless aggression.
Barbara Lewis © 2023.