Barely Visible Review – Unity Theatre, Liverpool

Barely Visible
Image Source: Unity Theatre

This is our review of Barely Visible at Liverpool‘s Unity Theatre. So, let’s take a look at Barely Visible!

Barely Visible

Description Of Barely Visible

Lesbians- or gay women- are an oft-neglected, even discounted, sub-section of the queer community. Bombastic effeminate male TV personalities of the 1970s onwards very much ingratiated and somewhat neutralised overly gay males in the eyes of the general public. To some extent destigmatised, if you like. Lesbians have all too often lacked anything close to an equivalent level of exposure and attention in the media. So, it was therefore refreshing to learn that there would be an entire one-woman show dedicated solely and exclusively to issues faced by the lesbian community.

Analysis Of Barely Visible

This is an impressive physical performance by performer Rowena Gander. And it’s a solo performance. Her only support comes in the form of a large pole, around which she bases much of the show. Now, I know what you are thinking, but this is not a vanity project in which the talent dances around a pole on her own for a whole hour. I jumped to the same assumption myself, as always. And I do enjoy being proved wrong.

Considering I have only a handful of lesbian friends and know only an absolute minimum about the issues that they face, even I knew many of the points raised by the performance to be nothing less than completely true. Take, for example, the occasional audio montages of textbooks slurs casually thrown at lesbians, such as “how do you know your lesbian if you’ve never had sex with a man?” and, of course, and number of phrases combining dyke, lesbian, or the word fat in any random order. Brutal, yet hilarious at the same time. And, unfortunately, so very, very true. Society does seem to harbour a thinly veiled contempt for lesbians and this performance shines a spotlight on this largely normalised double standard.

A particularly enjoyable segment involved the star doing a dance routine to Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl which served to underscore how straight women can exploit lesbianism for the purposes of arousing male attention and how they generally see lesbians as this exotic curiosity to be sampled at their own whim. Ms Gander also constructed a very witty segment counting down the top 10 most famous lesbian deaths in television. The most interesting thing about this? I’d never heard of half of them! Fitting, given the overall themes conveyed throughout the performance.


The 100-kilo pole utilised by Ms Gander throughout the performance served as a powerful symbol of her own personal strength. A point emphasised when the audience members invited to hold only a sub-section of the pole in their hands, could barely lift it beyond their wrists. Far from invisible submissive, she was able to suspend her full body weight mid-air, supported only by her thighs.

But the real success of this excellent piece of performance art is the ability of the star to provoke and stir debate. This happens without ever being preachy, condescending, or even anything remotely close to woke. It amounts to one continuous hour-long thread of simmering social commentary peppered with hefty dollops of satire. And not to mention the performing prowess of the artist themselves.

Summary Of Barely Visible

I arrived not knowing what to expect. But never did I anticipate coming away from watching Barely Visible being so impressed. As I mentioned earlier, although it does warrant mentioning again, I do love when something proves me wrong.

Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good

Take a look at other upcoming shows at the Unity Theatre!

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