Saskia Kirkegaard reviews ‘Hamsters’, a new play by female-led production company, Talkers and Doers running March 15th – March 17th 2023 at Hamilton House.
I saw Talkers & Doers’ new production, Hamsters, at Hamilton House on its opening night on Wednesday, and I can confirm that the piece was utterly outstanding! All three nights are sold out, so TWSS recommends that you sign up to their mailing list to keep an eye out for future productions, as you won’t want to miss the next treat they have lined up for the Edinburgh Fringe this summer.
The play follows a group of three close friends, Emma, Hannah, and Francine, and the events that escalate from Emma’s impulsive purchase of a hamster, Peanut, for Francine’s birthday. The girls struggle to communicate with each other and with the two male characters, Frank and Ernie, as Peanut’s introduction to their lives appears to tear them apart before slowly bringing them back together. Ultimately, the piece is about the power of female friendship and queer love, told through a lens of rigidity and British-awkwardness, which created an eclectic and humorous atmosphere on stage.
The dialogue, written by Rosalie Roger-Lacan and Amber Charlie-Conroy, UoB students, was incredibly dynamic and succinct, with clever pieces of overlapping and synchronous speech that gave the production an electric but comforting feeling. The split-scene dialogue was particularly special, with simultaneous arguments happening between two couples, then being swapped, so the audience could hear both sides of the story, regardless of where they were seated. As the characters’ bickering grows increasingly neurotic, evolving into a hilarious dinner-party-gone-wrong scene, the acting becomes physical, which might not have worked if the timing hadn’t been so razor-sharp, so all went without a hitch. The cast was excellent, particularly Molly Grogan as Francine, who encapsulated the mixture of angular formality and a secret longing for connection that the show successfully attempts to convey. The piece never felt too long as each scene was clean and polished (unlike the washing up tray that sets off an argument between Emma and Hannah in the beginning – I can never hear the phrase ‘meat juices’ in the same way again), and the speed of dialogue was snappy, without going over the audience’s head.
The technical aspects of the production should also be noted, with warm nostalgic lighting, and eclectic pieces of set such as washing up gloves, fairy lights, and a shrine to Peanut, all adding to the 2010s-meets-the-60s vibe of the piece, without drowning out the performances. The soundtrack and the costume designs fit perfectly into this as well, and the elements came together seamlessly to set the piece in a nostalgic, twee light, whilst still feeling modern.
I talked to Rosalie, one of the founders of the Talkers & Doers team, about what it means to create a show that was mainly worked on and led by women. She said, “Working as part of both a queer and female led theatre company and production team [was] something we initially set out to do, but [it] happened organically, because those are the people that Ambie [Amber Charlie-Conroy, her co-creator] and I had happened to be surrounded with, and also the people we want to keep on working with. It’s incredible to be in a space with just women making theatre, doing everything from rigging to directing, and it has been lovely to keep all [the] mansplaining at bay! I love that we’ve almost accidentally reunited this incredible group of women to work on this project, and that is definitely a space I actively want to keep on making.”
There is still progress to be made in the world of theatre production, in terms of making it a space for more women and queer people to work in, but with shows like Hamsters, I know the future is in good hands. If you have managed to get a ticket tonight, you are in for an absolute treat, and if you haven’t, make sure to check out @talkers.and.doers on Instagram to keep updated with their future plans!