In slang, the word “snatch” is a derogatory term for vagina. Now it is being reclaimed by the unlikeliest of institutions – the BBC – to mark 100 years of women’s suffrage in the UK.
Snatches: Moments from Women’s Lives is a series of monologues coming to BBC4 with an all-female line-up of writers, directors and stars. Curated by the Royal Court Theatre’s artistic director Vicky Featherstone – it was her who chose the title – the short films tell stories inspired by events that took place in the century since women first won the vote.
The eight 15-minute dramas were each shot in a single day, written by established writers such as Abi Morgan (The Split) and Vicky Jones (Fleabag), and starring actors including Atonement’s Romola Garai and Harry Potter’s Shirley Henderson as well as a roster of emerging talent. The directors are Vanessa Caswill (Little Women) and Rachna Suri.
Tipping Point and Pig Life are likely to have you in tears, while Reclaim the Night and Bovril Pam are bound to make you laugh. Here’s an introduction to the eight snatches of women’s lives.
Shirley Henderson is mesmerising in this film about the shocking fact that rape in marriage was legal in England until 1991. She plays a woman who has been repeatedly forced into sex by her husband – who she thinks of as a pig – throughout her marriage before legislation changes and she suddenly becomes a victim in the eyes of the law.
The monologue, written by EV Crowe, focusses on the responsibility that comes with being a victim, the difficulty of appearing in court, and feelings of denial about being abused. As Henderson speaks, the bedspread she is lying on morphs, pawing at her head and shoulders before eventually enveloping her entirely. The effect is deeply unsettling.
Pig Life airs at 10.15pm on Tuesday 19th June
Rachel De-Lahay has been on our radar since she wrote one of the episodes of the acclaimed Jack Thorne drama Kiri, and now she’s back with Tipping Point, a powerful film set in the future about a young woman whose baby is about to tip the UK into a white minority country.
Read with striking intensity by Antonia Thomas (Misfits, Lovesick), the monologue is directed at internet trolls who are out to get her and her unborn child. Within this story is a strange childhood tale that brings home the same sobering message about angry, dangerous men.
Tipping Point airs at 10.15pm on Thursday 21st June
Remember that famous orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally? Jodie Comer channels that moment in this playful short film by Fleabag’s Vicky Jones.
Comer plays a Scouse secretary on the eve of the sexual revolution in 1961, telling the viewer about her first lesbian experience, and first climax, as if gossiping with a friend. She performs the monologue with a wide-eyed, scandalised edge, sitting among mannequins with the sound of typewriter keys tap-tapping away in the background.
Bovril Pam airs at 10pm on Tuesday 19th June
This #MeToo-inspired story is about a young actress and a senior producer meeting in a hotel bedroom to “run through a scene”. Written by Abi Morgan (The Split) and starring Romola Garai (Atonement), the monologue uses the analogy of a “ferocious lion” intimidating its prey, a “timid rabbit”, and is told almost like a children’s bedtime story.
Not only does the film hone in on the abuse of power in Hollywood, but also on the failure of other women – female assistants, agents – to protect vulnerable, aspiring actresses.
Compliance airs 10pm on Monday 18th June
Reclaim the Night
In 1977, the first Reclaim the Night march was held in protest against police curfews that were imposed on women during the time of the Yorkshire Ripper. Liv Hill – Bafta-nominated for Three Girls – is feisty and funny as a Leeds teenager who takes issue with women having to change their behaviours and let go of their rights because of the transgressions of men.
The script, written by playwright Charlene James, also challenges the “boys will be boys” mentality and the vilification of prostitutes who made up many of the serial killer’s victims.
Reclaim the Night airs 10pm on Wednesday 20th June
This film starring Happy Valley’s Siobhan Finneran is inspired by a woman who challenged the law on cot deaths in 2003. Angela Cannings lost a total of three babies to cot death but was accused – and then convicted – of murdering the children.
Written by Zinnie Harris, the monologue is a tribute to the scores of women who were wrongly imprisoned and who weren’t believed because multiple cot deaths were deemed suspicious – although actually they are much more likely to reoccur, and often have genetic roots.
Multiples airs 10pm on Thursday 21st June
Corinne Skinner-Carter, of EastEnders fame, plays a grandmother musing on the changes she’s witnessed throughout her life, all told with mischief and youthful energy.
The setting of this monologue, written by Theresa Ikoko, is a modest yet vibrant apartment. Skinner-Carter sits at a table in the middle, with a birthday cake in front of her replicating the very scene she is in. All the while, a revolution rages outside, bricks smashing through her window.
Outside airs 10.15pm on Monday 18th June
This film stars Kiran Sonia Sawar as a Bengali woman fighting for freedom in 1930s colonial India. It has a trippy, almost sci-fi feel to it and is based on the real experience of Pritilata Waddedar, a female revolutionary.
Written by Tanika Gupta, the monologue references Pritilata’s 1932 attack on the Pahartali European Club, which had a sign that read: “Dogs and Indians not allowed.” She led a team of revolutionaries who torched the club and were later caught by the British police. To avoid punishment, Pritilata drank cyanide and died for her cause.