Lesbian subculture is put under the microscope in Grotty at the Bunker Theatre, anchored by an idiosyncratic performance from Izzy Tennyson
“There’s got to be another lesbian like you”
There’s something a little extraordinary about Izzy Tennyson’s central performance at the heart of Grotty. Her Rigby is mesmerising, a young woman finding her way through the London lesbian scene, characterised as an almost grotesque clown, clambering over every inch of the Bunker Theatre, hunched over, tongue lapping, words gabbled, a striking presence indeed.
As strong as she is though, this isn’t a one-woman show and Tennyson’s idiosyncratic manner (she is also the writer here) doesn’t always sit easily within the wider world of the play she has created. The relationships she crashes in and out of, the hookups she searches out, the friendships she abuses – all are more conventionally conceived, insofar as this slice of lesbian subculture could be considered conventional.
In some ways, this disconnect is part of Tennyson’s aim. Rigby doesn’t feel the kind of kinship here that she craves, and struggles to deal with the cliquiness of the scene, its downright hostility and bitchiness. As she deals with the competing demands of her two girlfriends, plus discerning a place for her own desires, this is a brutally frank depiction of an element of LGBT life not much explored on London’s stages.
And in that respect, Hannah Hauer-King’s production for Damsel Productions should be lauded, forefronting such stories and bringing together a quality creative team, that just happens to be all-female. It’s hard not to feel that Grotty could benefit from a tad more development, to really unify its lead performer to its play and to strengthen the focus of its narrative away from late-arriving characters.