What does it mean to be a woman in the male-orientated worlds of
war and pornography? Belongings, the first full-length play from
31-year-old writer, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm dares to ask the
A young, lesbian soldier, Deb (Joanna Horton, pictured right),
returns from warfare in Afghanistan to find her pot-bellied father,
Jim (Ian Bailey), naked in all his hairy glory, and on the hunt for
It's funny. It really is, but, as so often in this play, there are
serious things to follow starting with Deb's discovery that, after
18 months away, Jim is not only making a living out of uploading
porn onto the Internet, but also, married to, Jo (Kirsty Bushell),
the woman she loves.
A slick set designed by Naomi Dawson and clever lighting from
David Holmes allows scenes to alternate between Jim's West Country
home and a mixed army barracks in Helmland, where Deb and her male
roommate Sarko (Calum Callaghan)'s playful banter sets things up
brilliantly for the dark contrast to come.
In just 75 minutes, we watch the past and present unfold like
parallel lines, both destined for their unrelenting and disturbing
conclusions while Deb (who remains on stage for every scene) tries
to recover a lost love, a sense of home and answers to questions
about her absent mother.
With a cast of four and tackling plenty of big subjects, from
youporn and identity to the varying and complex forms of love and
self-protection, 'Belongings' explores the mixed messages given
these days about what it means to be a woman.
"We're told to be sexy or strong, to go out there and get what we
want, but on the other hand we should be mothers," says Malcolm. "I
wanted to explore this, and also write a cracking role for a woman,
because, yes, there are female playwrights out there telling female
stories, but there's still an awful lot is going on that's yet to
be told. It may not be the party line but f*** it."
And it's not just one, but two 'cracking' roles that Malcolm has
written here for women. Thankfully, both actresses do Malcolm proud
with Bushell getting the tone just right for the ever-weakening Jo,
delivering the perfect balance of comedy and pathos, while Deb's
strength and vulnerability are also skillfully exposed by Horton
who successfully portrays a woman struggling against the grain in
two places (both her 'home' and the army) where she no longer
But as a straight woman, did Lloyd Malcolm have difficultly
writing one lesbian character and another who is 'confused'?
"I didn't struggle with it, no. I knew that I wanted to write a
woman's story, and to write about a woman in love, and it just
happened that in the genesis of writing the play, I realized that
Deb was in love with Jo. From my love life in the past, I've learnt
that you fall in love with people and not necessarily a gender. I
think all love is very different and very the same; I'm banging the
love drum, not the lesbian drum."
In fact Belongings is far too subtle to be regarded as banging any
kind of drum, though, enhanced by the punchy direction of Maria
Alberg, the rise in (largely sexual) tension throughout does lend
it an ever-quickening rhythm that ultimately leads the story to a
bleak and powerful conclusion that will leave your stomach
See 'Belongings' at the Trafalgar Studios until July
For more information and/or to book tickets visit: