What a Gem the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham turned out to be. A South Londoner through and through it was the first time I had visited and to see Femme Fatale was a real treat. The Omnibus has been here six years and has a fantastic bar and restaurant attached. I was advised by the very friendly staff that press should sit centre stage for the performance of Femme Fatale. I sensibly decided not to risk the front row, which proved wise as some people on the front row were asked to interact. Femme Fatale written and performed by Polly Wiseman is a cabaret style setting where the two main actors can interact with the audience. Pity the man who sits anywhere near the stage! The show set in the sixties features Valerie Solanos (famous as the woman who shot Andy Warhol) and Nico, sometime singer with the Velvet Underground.
Polly Wiseman, the play writer, played Nico to perfection as the German-born model and now “wannabe” who had had relationships with a string of famous men. Having grown up in war torn Berlin with a Nazi father she appears cold although with a certain style and elegance. She appears in the show desperate to be part of Andy Warhol’s latest film with every intention of snaring Jim Morrison from The Doors whom she already claimed was her lover. Morrison was going to be the main star. Although Valerie and Nico had never met in real life they had moved within similar circles in New York and had both survived rape and brutality in their adolescence. Polly Wiseman puts them together in the Chelsea Hotel, in New York in 1967.
These two women have fought through adversity to make a difference and stand up and be counted. In the 1960s Valerie Solanos had written a manifesto for her latest feminist project – SCUM (the Society for Cutting Up Men) and was hell-bent on pushing this forward especially with the audience in Clapham! There were points in the play resembling the modern day #metoo campaign. Valerie had survived the birth of two children in her teenage years, through incest and rape and was hell-bent on taking some kind of action on society.
Valerie is living rough after giving her recently written play to Andy Warhol, who then claims to have lost it. She is determined to get into the film so that she can ask him about her play. Nico is already dependent on drugs at this point and is spiralling into decline but trying to find a better place to make her feel happy.
The play is frank and hard-hitting. Valerie played by Sophie Olivia is the dominant character throughout, trying to bring Nico into the reality of not continuing to let men abuse her no matter how famous they are. Fast forward to 1986 when both women are now dead. Valerie has achieved her 15 minutes of fame through shooting Andy Warhol and Nico has become a heroine to the Goth scene.
This is a tale of two women coming to terms with their past and their own mental illnesses. Neither are successful at making peace with their demons.
A mesmerising performance by both actors and a play not to miss.
Reviewer - Penny Curran
on - 9/10/19