August 20, 2017 Mouthpiece The Guardian / Lyn Gardner A woman struggles to get to the microphone to make a speech and is physically restrained by another who also grabs for the mic but is sabotaged. When these women do open their mouths, they find they have no voice. In Mouthpiece, created by Quote Unquote, there are two performers but only one character: Cassandra, a writer whose mother has just died. Cassandra is supposed to choose her mother’s coffin, select the flowers and write the eulogy but she can’t speak and is struggling to get out of the bath. She is in constant dialogue with her subconscious. Writers and performers Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava play one woman, sometimes at war with each other and sometimes in harmony. At one point – in a show that takes place in and around a bath, which on occasion doubles as a coffin – they sit together with their limbs splayed around them like an octopus’s tentacles. In one of several references to Beckett’s Not I, Cassandra speaks through the bath’s plughole. The gendering of language, the legacies that are passed from mother to daughter, even the pitch in which women speak, comes under scrutiny in a show that is dense with words that bubble up like soap suds and are constantly washed away. Cassandra struggles with her own identity and to decipher who her mother really was – a woman of iron will or a doormat in a girdle who wouldn’t eat french fries for fear of getting fat? Her mother’s confusions live on in Cassandra and indeed all women, blown hither and thither in a world that still tightly polices how we look, talk and act. The Cassandras easily move the bath on their own, but when male volunteers are invited from the audience to help, they become simpering, giggling girls. This is a show that points up the everyday sexism with which women contend but doesn’t spare the way we sometimes collude when it suits us or try so desperately to please. Mouthpiece is exhausting to watch and sometimes overplays its hand: when the women check their own white privilege it just feels gratuitous and insincere. But it’s a smart show, beautifully put together and performed, and one that speaks up for all the women who daily bite their tongues.