What if Women Ruled the World?

There is no question that What if Women Ruled the World? is a profoundly messy production.  Gender stereotypes are thrown around at will and we veer violently from one to the next. The five experts have such a short time to make their proposals, the effect is heightened, almost surreal. The gap between the actors and the experts is at times unbridgeable. But isn’t that exactly what life is? Messy, confusing, judgemental and clipped. For all that I believe that this is a stunning production in its ambition, scope and execution.

What if Women Ruled the World? as part of MIF 2017 is ‘writer Yael Bartana’s groundbreaking film and performance project, created with a team including performance director Vicky Featherstone and writer Abi Morgan’.  Ten women sit at the table including five experts – Holly Kilroy (digital security), Lisa Ling (drones), Kate Raworth (economist), Irena Sabic (human rights), Mariam Ibrahim Yusuf (refugee campaigner). Five actors drive the pace and dialogue.  A teaboy enters in swim trunks, the perfect male image, and Kate demands he be given a place at the table.  The group have one hour to solve the greatest crisis of our time.  How would they create a new world?  What are their three priorities?

Is it that we have stopped being able to deal with complexity?  Do we break complex issues down into manageable chunks, or worse soundbites? What happens when the solutions need such commitment and resource that we have to work together to achieve them; nobody gets the credit.  The best idea tonight was from Irena, who suggested empathy hurdles for politicians, an idea I have thought about often as our leaders care less and less at all levels.  Kate Raworth talked about sustainable economics where the world works for the many not the few, and we live in harmony with the environment.  There were suggestions to eliminate borders.  In the context of our narrow understanding of the world much of this seems unworkable.  But what if we could change everything, wouldn’t the world be better?

Is it that women think differently?  Does it matter?  After all, within ‘men’ and ‘women’ are a lot of different styles.  Perhaps it’s about listening, opening our eyes to the possibilities that might benefit the many and not the few.  Perhaps it’s that we don’t hear what women are saying.  But within this production sat some of the most astute, measured and insightful analysis available; we listened.  There is a character, an actor, playing a woman playing a man, who reminds us of how male behaviour can fail us.  It’s a bit like having Donald Trump in the room.  But the production doesn’t pretend that women have all the answers, nor that women will save us.  We don’t need women to rule the world, we need to open our eyes and ears to a new way of listening to opinion that isn’t based on power.  We need to value each other, listen and move forward together.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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