🎭 The Lamb Disagrees
📍 Barons Court Theatre, 28a Comeragh Roadd, London, W14 9HR
🗓 Wednesday 29th November 2023
AN INTERESTING CONCEPT CLEVERLY BROUGHT TO LIFE ON STAGE
Before going to see The Lamb Disagrees in Barons Court Theatre, I found myself already very intrigued by the title and summary. I love the symbolism associated with the lamb – the image of innocence, purity and sacrifice. And the concept of an author's character being a real person who then gets to take back her own story is a one I couldn’t wait to see play out on stage.
The play begins by introducing us to Willow. We see that she is a successful woman working in finance in London. We learn she’s been dating James, a man who she’s recently found out is married. We then meet Aaron, an author who is being pushed by his literary agent to come up with a new and exciting story to pitch to publishers. Aaron gets an idea for a novel in which a Chinese woman living in London is scapegoated as a murderer – a plot his agent is fully on board with.
We then see how the play cleverly brings Willow under Aaron’s control. On one side of the stage, Willow attends an appointment with a therapist, and on the other, Aaron sits hammering the keys on his typewriter, speaking Willow’s lines before she articulates them herself. I really enjoyed the way this concept was brought to life on stage. The story-within-a-story idea had the potential to be quite confusing, especially in such an intimate theatre space and limited options set-wise. But the constant presence of the typewriter and the way that Willow behaves – kind of puppet-like at first – made it really clear that she was now Aaron’s character for him to do with as he pleased.
I thought it was interesting that the play started by introducing us to Willow, even before Aaron has thought up his new book idea. As a result, I found it a little unclear whether Willow was under Aaron's control at the very beginning, or if this came later. Nevertheless, it doesn’t take long for the control he has over her to unravel. Willow finds Aaron on a dating app and when they meet, she convinces him to let her help write his novel.
Willow wants to take control of her own narrative and become the story’s heroine as opposed to the scapegoat. Aaron thinks that by writing it his way, he’s shedding light on the stereotype and narrative trope of an East Asian female character playing the victim. But Willow makes it clear to him, and to the audience, that he’s going about it the wrong way – and that the real way to shed light on the stereotype would be to simply break it and make her the heroine.
It’s during this conversation between Aaron and Willow that Eratle Wang’s (the playwright) aim of the play is revealed: she wants Aaron, and writers in general, to create East Asian female characters that are more authentic and complex, and not bogged down by archetypes.
Willow’s lines make this message very clear – perhaps too clear at points. Don’t get me wrong, it’s obviously a very important message to share. But I feel that if it was done more subtly, I would have stayed more deeply drawn into the story. I feel like the commentary on the box-ticking that sometimes goes on in the creative industry pulled me out of the story a little bit and was perhaps a little too explicit in parts. For me, less is sometimes more when encouraging audience members to reflect and digest the themes that are brought up in plays.
This play has a runtime of 50 minutes, and it managed to fit a lot in in that time – including seven characters played by four different actors. We have Gawa Leung, who played Willow; Ben Butler who played writer Aaron and Willow’s boyfriend James; Martina Greenwood who played the literary agent and Charlotte, James’ wife who is murdered; and Gerrie Skeens who plays Charlotte’s mother and a police officer.
I feel the detective and murder part of the play – the plot of Aaron’s story – could have perhaps been a little more creative and a bit more suspenseful. I know this isn’t the main part of the play and that the message is more about breaking down stereotypes, but I feel like this part felt a bit rushed. If we’re really to believe that this fictional novel is going to be a bestseller, I feel the main murder plot needed to be a bit more intricate. There was a moment in the play when I thought Willow was going to end up being the murderer, and I found myself quite excited to see this – not in a way that alienated her or made her the hated villain. But in a way where she maintained her likability. I had visions of it being quite Killing Eve-esque. A slight spoiler, but suffice it to say this isn’t what happened.
Overall, I was really impressed with concept and how it was brought to life on the stage. I also found each character to be really believable and was impressed by the ease at which the cast switched to different characters throughout. While there were a few parts I thought could have been a little more intricate and throught out, I’d definitely recommend giving it a watch.
The Lamb Disagrees is on at Barons Court Theatre until Saturday 2 December, 2023. Book your tickets here.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest, fair and free from influence. Theatre is subjective and it is important to remember that all views expressed are just those of one reviewer.
My ticket for this performance of The Lamb Disagrees was gifted by Barons Court Theatre who invited me to watch the show on behalf of Pink Prince Theatre in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the content of my review or the star rating given.