Shirtwaist @ Summerhall
A tragic story brilliantly told
Jane Bowie is the individual star and writer of Shirtwaist. The audience is presented with an original and engaging theatre piece that is performed with a unique personal tone that embodies passion.
Crumpled up newspapers are strewn over the stage and a trashcan sits almost unnoticed. A homeless woman enters and engages two journalists who confront her by asking questions. We never see or hear these journalists, but Bowie's performance is so engrossing we can imagine them as she constructs a one sided dialogue.
The protagonist looks back to childhood memories and recounts how, as a little girl, she travelled from Scotland to the Lower East Side of New York City. Childhood is passionately described and a traditional Scottish ballad is beautifully recited. The story really gains pace when we find ourselves in the factory that the homeless woman worked in and the tragedy which beset the place. This is the source of our protagonist’s anger and the powerful and dramatic conclusion to the exhausting performance.
The story is the most endearing part of Shirtwaist. We hang on to our performer's every word as the narrative develops and reaches its tragic climax. The narration paints a vivid picture and allows us to envision the drama from the homeless woman's perspective. This creates an endearing image that stays with the audience as we leave the theatre.