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Motherland, The Place London

By Lyndsey Winship

The London Evening Standard, 9 November 2012

American author Hanna Rosin recently published a book called The End of Men, arguing that women were moving towards being the dominant sex, more capable of adapting to our fast-changing world. The patriarchy is morphing into a matriarchy, apparently. Rosin’s thesis came to mind while watching Charlotte Vincent’s new dance theatre piece Motherland, which focuses on women, motherhood and having it all. Was this a portrait of women thriving in a new era, glossy CEOs tapping on their BlackBerrys while popping out babies? Hardly. Was it an unromanticised picture of identity crisis, competing pressures, running in circles and a lot of (rather realistic) periods? Yep, that’s the one. It’s a very Pina Bausch-y piece, with its brief scenes and snapshots, the exaggerated femininity, a bit of misery and bodily fluid, and the feeling it’s just a bit too long. Motherland runs two hours straight through and lacks the drive not to make that feel like a long labour. What it does have is an excellent cast. Hugely talented and versatile, they play instruments, sing, dance and speak, and range in age from pre-teen to 70-plus. And there are some strong scenes, like the dancers screaming a couple to orgasm in the midst of a real riot of spring, and just about everything involving 12-year-old Leah Yegar, who watches, baffled at adult behaviour while slowly putting on the cloak of womanhood herself. One thing that comes across (and chimes with Rosin’s theory) is that men are having their own identity crisis. Here they’re lost and searching; they move with muscle but without swagger. There’s little to argue with, but it also feels as if there’s little argument here. Does this make us see anything differently? It’s less brave new world, more just getting by.