Writer: Alice Birch
Music: Ben and Max Ringham
Tour Director: Laurence Cook
Original Director: Caroline Steinbeis
Reviewer: Rich Jevons
For those of us who read the SCUM manifesto in the Seventies, Rash Dash’s vitriolic and visceral We Want You To Watch, commissioned by the National Theatre, lets the audience off quite lightly. But in comparison with other feminist agitprop and cutting edge physical theatre out there, this is an in-yer-face rollercoaster ride of venomous and vociferous protest against hardcore porn.
But it is also so much more than this, with moments allowing and longing us to feel the loss of innocence. It doesn’t shy away from the corruption, degradation and sleaze of the porn industry and is very clever in the way it avoids any kind of titillation, preferring traumatic and tempestuous tactics to shock and provoke.
It starts with Rash Dash’s Artistic Directors Helen Goalen and Abbi Greenland behind a desk with a voice recorder, interrogating an already bruised and battered suspect. They pursue the link between violence on women perpetrated for watching online with actual rapes and sexually-motivated murders and sex crimes. It really throws us in at the deep end, but the interrogators methods and statements are sometimes ludicrous while the persecuted prisoner can hardly string a sentence together.
But when he does wax lyrical, the two female leads adopt submissive and lower status positions. The worm has turned and that worm is the ugly face of misogyny.
The heaviness of this scene is slightly lifted by the appearance of Helena Lymbery as the Queen, replete with crown, Union flags and red carpet. But she too is the subject of interrogation, or at least more than gentle persuasion to sign a decree making porn illegal. The company play on the ludicrous and absurdist theatrical nature of the scenario. Before long, this turns into a raucous rave with the introduction of pulsating hard house music reminiscent to the soundtrack of a debauched orgy played out for the benefits of the voyeur.
The next focus of the playful but hard-hitting narrative, is Bettrys Jones’ Mega-Hacker with the two leads asking her to turn the Internet off with the flick of a switch and go back to a world before minors were subject to online porn, as if it were just another game or comedy, even if taboo.
The most stunningly shocking moment includes a young boy (Adam Charters) being the recipient of hideous and heinous messages before a dramatic end to the scene. This is a powerful show with the cast themselves repeating, “We know what we’re doing / We don’t know what we’re doing” and the endgame includes Peter Marinker as an old man sucked into a disturbing but poignant climax.
Runs until 15 October 2015 | Image: Richard Davenport