In this brilliant one-woman coming-of-age show, Katie Arnstein transports us back a decade or so to the day she became a feminist. In many ways it is was ordinary day: time at school, a minimum-wage job, and fairytale dreams of that precious first kiss. But not everything goes smoothly. Bicycles and Fish will be a familiar gut-punch to most women, even though the story is uniquely Arnstein's.
The show begins with recorded excerpts of recent events, from the dubious pronouncements of the President of the US to studies showing the effect of diet culture on children. It is the first indication that this comedy show runs deeper than just finding laughs – and, in the first of many original songs, Arnstein humorously reminds us that feminism is much larger a topic than could be adequately covered in an hour. And so she does the opposite: showing us just one day, in one girl's life.
Focussing on a point in time gives the story an intimate feel, and allows for a gradual build-up, setting the scene of a typical school day. Those of us who were teenagers around the 2000s will be transported straight back: lipgloss, dating (or lack of it), the bizarre attempts of schools to discourage sex, drugs and drinking, and forbidden women's magazines with their "tips" for how to get men. Some of the humour is very time-specific and people of other generations may find fewer points of reference than I did, but that doesn't detract from the piece's message; the mundaneness of the day makes the show both more relatable and, ultimately, more shocking.
Arnstein has an excellent stage presence and an engaging manner; even her little asides explaining the vagaries of the English education system are entertaining. She combines compelling storytelling with quirky songs, including a rap about longshore drift and one about what she wished she'd said. Arnstein has the presence to make the hour seem like no time at all, but also to create a show that will have you thinking about it for days.
This is what the world needs now: a raw, honest and personal account of just one reason why we need feminism. Running the whole gamut of emotions, it's the hardest-hitting show accompanied by a ukulele I've ever seen. Well deserving of the standing ovation she received, Arnstein will make you laugh, and she made me cry. She'll give you hope that we can make the world better, and courage to stand up and help each other.