Philosopher Alain de Botton once wrote “anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough”. Make it twenty years, and (if your toes sufficiently uncurl) you’ve got a show. Enter Ormskirk’s Rosie Wilby, who captures the naivete of youth and provides a charming nostalgia trip with her latest show Nineties Woman.
Wilby takes us back to her undergraduate days at York University circa 1991, and the social, political and sexual awakenings that naturally ensued. The story is specifically centred around her involvement with the campus women’s newspaper Matrix, and the feminist collective behind it. Over-earnest, sometimes naive and always staunchly passionate, the group took their work so seriously, the results at once were a source of commendable debate, yet with the benefit of hindsight, occasionally unwittingly hilarious.
Enough time has passed for the nineties to be fertile ground for this kind of comedic examination, and Wilby as ever proves an affable and good-humoured guide. From dodgy perms to political demos, teenage lusts and pre-internet publishing, there is plenty in the mix to raise a familiar chuckle and she has a comfortable presence on stage. It’s part stand up, part documentary, as she goes in search of some of her old cohorts, not only to see how their lives turned out but to reminisce the creative process behind Matrix and the intense radical feminism of the nineties and the changes in the movement since then (from riot grrl to girl power, as she puts it).
Wilby’s friendly and open demeanor gives Nineties Woman an appeal much broader than its niche premise might suggest. It’s personal and warmly self-depreciating, a trip down memory lane with a coming-of-age tale at its heart that is funny, relatable and poignant.