The Opposite of History
Writer and director Pete Hartley of uneasy theatre reviews 7 Veils.
7 Veils: An evening with Mata Hari
Faro Productions. Written by Abi Hynes and performed by Laura Danielle Sharp.
The King’s Arms, Salford, November 2014
This play was written partly by the pen on the page and partly through collaboration on the rehearsal stage, and the shared ownership showed. Laura Sharp engaged, enchanted and amused with sugared blades, cutting and curing by witty lacerations and ironic smiles while biting back at a hundred years of the commercial kidnapping of her role’s reputation. She revealed an icon who teased and toyed but only told that which she wished to tell, leaving the rest to the imagination of those familiar with the recycled fabric of the facts with which she has been costumed.
Abi Hynes writes resonant lines. Some of them power the narrative punch whilst others stop you in your tracks. The most potent here asked us to consider what might be the opposite of history. That thought remained long after the final veil was drawn. Perhaps the one flaw in this show is that the play presumes a certain quantity of foreknowledge. I craved for a slightly richer carpet of the conventional take on the tale in order to fully appreciate that which Mata Hari did not wish to celebrate, but this was a post-modem Mata, who shuns Wikipedia while predicting that the audience will look her up later. I did, and then pondered whether this heralds the next phase of economy in playwriting. There’s even less need to pad out a play with facts that are so instantly obtainable.
What is the opposite of history? This play perhaps, because it is the opposite of selectively forgetting that which should be preserved. The gemstone text and the luscious, intelligent and evocative tour-de-force solo performance brought Mata into our midst with an immediacy that partly obscured and tantalisingly revealed what might really have moved beneath those seven veils. Not remembering then, but remembrance, which rightly requires the removal of all shrouds.