Pandora: rediscovering the forgotten hope

A roller coaster of rage and love, despair and satisfaction, desire and doubt.
Grace Chilton and Paksie Vernon has developed a 20-minute scratch monologue - first performed by the artistic duo for Etch010 in 2016 - in one hour long performance accompanied by live music, with the title Pandora. 

Wasn’t that ancient myth of the woman and the box? Yes, that is the starting canvas, from where the stories of two women - from two different parts of the universe - move and intersect. But remember: there is much more in the box than just all the sufferings and evils Pandora freed.

Helen (Grace Chilton), 19 years old, is pregnant. She has left home, her parents, and lives together with her boyfriend, Aaron. The girl spends her days at home, most of the time on Internet.
The Wi-Fi is vital. It’s thanks to the broadband - not really to her partner - that Helen made up her mind and decided to continue the pregnancy, crossing out the abortion option. She often looks at the picture of a dreamy happy family she wishes will welcome the baby.

Hera (Paksie Vernon) is the Queen of Heaven. Sexually unsatisfied by her husband Zeus, she decides to search for some entertainment down on earth. The goddess finds the object of her desires, but, unexpectedly, as a consequence, she becomes a woman, with apparently no superpowers.

It’s the irresistible human disposition to do what we are told not to do. And the mess that comes out from that short flick of the Pandora box leads to overwhelming difficulties and uncertainty.

For Helen, it could have been the decision to continue her relationship with Aaron, despite the facts she was not entirely sure and their young age. For Hera, it could be her first steps down on earth to please herself.
What hope is there for this kid in this world,” cries in confusion Helen. The misery and the cruelty of humankind are indeed matters that appear more and more frequently as the story goes on.

The characters at the centre of this wonderful new story are written and interpreted by two strong women. They embody all the facets of these roles, not so easy since, as mentioned at the beginning, their lives look like a train going up and down among and in between different passions and reactions. From Helen’s teen liking for jelly, to the confusion on her pregnancy. From Hera’s lust, to the goddess’ arrogance.

The script presents two distinct stories, until the life paths of the women meet at some point, towards the end. I particularly liked the descriptive writing. The play works around interrupted monologues of the protagonists, with a clear and paced rhythm. And despite the minimal, actually close to zero, props, I could see everything happening on the stage.

Etch presents this show at Pleasance Theatre really on the week of International Women Day. This play is about women, those creatures apparently so fragile, but who actually contains a volcano of feelings and thoughts bursting and agitating inside and outside.

Men are mentioned, often with neutral tone. What I received from this choice was not a position against men, but the decision to put aside for once even this reoccurring contrast man-woman, and let’s focus only on the female world, for human being as well as in the high heavens.

Another strong point for me was the smooth blending of elements from the myth – the chaotic and cruel world Pandora has thrown humanity into – and current life situations – from Wi-Fi vital connection, to a typical pub evening.

The play doesn’t want necessarily to leave a moral teaching, if not to be more open to kindness and understanding, as Helen herself learns in the end.

Is not that easy to be a woman today like it wasn't yesterday, but at the bottom of the box, Pandora eventually finds hope, “a fractured piece of light" (as defined in the show). And that is actually what this intense performance reminds us.

Dates: 7-11 March 2017

Thanks to Theatre Bloggers for the invite.