Aug 9 2023 | By More

★★★☆☆    Timely

theSpace on the Mile (Venue 39): Sat 5 – Fri 25 Aug 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

Jane/Norma, by Viewpoint and New Celts at theSpace on the Mile, is a timely and hard-hitting piece of two-handed verbatim theatre from writer-director Kiera Bell.

Norma McCorvey was the woman behind the ‘Jane Roe’ alias in the Roe vs Wade case that was pivotal in allowing access to abortion in the US – a judgement that the US Supreme Court, recast in the image of the last President, has recently overturned.

Charlotte Bella Page and Peter Morrison in Jane/Norma. Pic: Iain Davie

McCorvey was clearly a damaged and complex, not to say quixotic character, who later became an advocate for an extreme anti-abortion movement, then seemingly recanting just before she died. Bell’s portrait of Roe/McCorvey is through the words of people who knew her, with the central character making only a brief late appearance.

Perhaps verbatim theatre’s day in the sun has passed. Certainly it is not nearly as prevalent post-pandemic as it was a decade ago. It has often been praised as ‘authentic’ but, like documentary film, it must be remembered that it still has an authorial component, with the creators deciding what material to include, and most significantly how that material is shaped and concluded.

strengths and weaknesses

This piece has many of the form’s strengths and weaknesses. The words spoken have an urgency and truth, but the lack of linking material can make it feel dry.

Bell’s direction eliminates many of the possible pitfalls. Changes in character are signified by the simplest of wardrobe alterations and both performers do very well in differentiating the various characters. The use of instantly familiar songs to symbolise different eras is something of a cliche, however, and not done with any great subtlety.

Charlotte Bella Page and Peter Morrison in Jane/Norma. Pic: Iain Davie

Peter Morrison inhabits the various characters physically and vocally but without going over the top or adding any unnecessary comedy. One of his characterisations does uncannily resemble a hitherto undiscovered Baldwin brother, but this is very definitely acting rather than impersonation – and acting of a high level.

Charlotte Bella Page is no less impressive, adding genuine emotion without overdoing things – her portrayals of McCorvey’s lawyer, and of her one-time partner, are notably strong.


At times there is a danger of this becoming an academic exercise, rather than effective drama with the (obviously copious) research involved showing too clearly, but such a suspicion never fully takes hold. Instead there is much that is gripping, both politically and in its sheer humanity.

People will take from it from they want. A piece of verbatim theatre will never change minds. But many will end up quietly furious that courts still seek to undermine women’s autonomy. Or equally concerned that the tide of social progress does not just flow one way, and that the supposedly dispassionate legal system is too concerned with ‘personalities’.

Or that the U.K.’s determination to copy the American Supreme Court, stuffed as it is with doctrinaire political appointees, is very dangerous.

Running time: 55 minutes (no interval)
theSpace on the Mile, 80 High St, EH1 1TH (Venue 39)
Saturday 5 – Friday 25 August 2023 (odd dates only)
Odd dates only at 2.15 pm
Tickets and details: Book here.

Viewpoint company links

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/
Instagram: @viewpoint.theatrecompany



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