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The Space Between Us

Published by: Steve Burbridge on 8th Mar 2013 | View all blogs by Steve Burbridge

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The Space Between Us – The Customs House, South Shields

The concept of Catrina McHugh’s The Space Between Us is an intriguing one. With freak storms and flash floods still very much ingrained in the collective memory of the North East, the concept of the region being gripped by a storm of biblical proportions does not require the imagination to be stretched too far.

Three months of rain fall in one day, roads are closed, rivers are bursting their banks and the region is submerged under water. Blown from four corners of the earth, four women seek sanctuary, security and refuge.

As the drama begins, the performances are strong and the action is fast-paced. We are introduced to four very different women from contrasting cultural backgrounds: Eyshan (Ioana Tudor), a Czech Roma; Eman (Seda Yildiz), a Syrian Muslim; Zeyna (Joana Geronimo), a West African asylum seeker, and Cheyanne (Jessica Johnson), a gypsy traveller. Soon, they find themselves in a battle, not only with the rising tide and each other – but also with humanity itself.

The writing effectively and emotively conveys that each of these women is the victim of inequality, injustice and humiliation. Yet, rather than a bond being borne as a result of shared experiences, initially, the women are as discriminatory towards each other, just as society, at large, has been to them as individuals. The audience is suddenly thrust into a mix of ignorance, misunderstanding, intolerance and conflict.

Gradually, as the individual back stories of each character is revealed, layer by layer, and because the women are forced to operate as a unit in order to survive, they each find common ground which, ultimately, leads to new levels of understanding, respect and hope being reached.

The piece is produced by ‘Open Clasp’, a women’s theatre company which specialises in staging theatre from a female gaze, aimed at mixed audiences. Whilst this ethos is evident, to their credit, in the truthful portrayals of the female characters they let themselves down in their attitude towards men – or, to be more specific, they certainly do in this play, at least.

As a feminist myself, I do not dispute that women all over the world are oppressed, brutalised and even killed at the hands of men – the shocking statistics speak loudly enough for themselves. However, I do take offence that all men are lumped, collectively, together and tarred with the same brush.

Throughout the 100 minute female-only performance, I do not recall hearing a single positive reference about the male of the species. Indeed, the only representation of masculinity at all was in the form of a pair of heavy boots, the protective body armour vest of a security guard and a wallet containing a driving licence and two hundred pounds in cash. This, in my opinion, could only be construed as a metaphor for control, authority, force and objectification – an inexcusable generalisation that completely flies in the face of aiming to appeal to ‘mixed audiences’.

A couple of other issues marred my enjoyment of what would otherwise have been a thoroughly engaging and thought-provoking piece. Firstly, the lack of an interval (an hour and forty minutes is a long time to sit listening to the sound effects of rainfall without having the appropriate opportunity to take a comfort break!) and, secondly, the lack of any real resolution or denouement. It seemed to me as though McHugh had merely ran out of ideas for a conclusion and, instead, simply stopped writing.

The Space Between Us could, I am certain, evolve into the production it has the potential to be – provided that some skilful editing is undertaken and the writer/production company adopts a far less strident attitude in its approach towards men as a gender.

Steve Burbridge.

Touring the North East until 20 April 2013. For venue details and booking information visit


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