Writer: Abbey Wright, Shireen Mula, Matt Regan
Director: Abbey Wright
Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty
There are two main feelings this performance generates. The first is a recognition that exposure to sex and sexuality for today’s young people is almost utterly different to even a decade ago, and it’s a real problem. The second, is that young people (ages 7-22 in this case) are capable of very intelligent introspection and deserve a lot more credit for not being, on the whole, completely damaged by the world their elders have created.
The team of Abbey Wright, Shireen Mula and Matt Regan have picked quotes and stories from a massive tranche of interviews and conversations with young people about pornography, and turned them into lyrics for songs, and the tough points they needed to communicate in the text. The wide world of online (and offline) sexual material and young people’s questions, confusions and qualms on the subject comes to life through these engaging performers. All aged between 6 and 22, they engage with this difficult material without pulling any punches – delivering charisma, humour and some great singing voices.
Most affecting are the “interview” scenes where two performers countdown 3-2-1 and then launch into an incredibly intimate discussion. These are mixed with monologue scenes and songs to take us through a number of chapters on porn and its impact. We hear about what love looks like to a 7-year-old, what masturbation and puberty means to teenage boys and the awkwardness of sexual maturity from two girls. There’s an excellent song about how porn is male-focused, even lesbian porn is created for the “heterosexual male gaze”. We hear about the addictive and emotionally damaging side of porn, about how difficult it is to see women treated as props (and treated violently) in porn when you’re a teenage girl just learning about sex, and about how the presentation of different races, and trans people, are seriously problematic.
It’s hugely informative and genuinely disturbing. Nobody watching can say they didn’t know it was such a problem – anyone with a smartphone is literally 10 seconds away from material that would upset even the most hardened internet dweller – but to have it laid out so plainly, so eloquently and so passionately is a game changer. It’s difficult to see where the interview material ends and scripted performance begins, or for that matter where the performers own stories come in (if at all). So there’s a little confusion in whether the words we hear are reporting or created for the show – something it would be good to clarify as it’s such an important point.
Without the social weight and context this piece sits in, however, it’s still a very good 80 minutes. The singing and music is great, performances engaging and it’s all very fun. It’s very smart work and for a play about pornogrpahy that contains the word “fisting” it’s really not at all “inappropriate”.
The creators made this as part of a national effort to raise awareness of the issue. It deserves success in Southwark and a wider audience after for that alone. But it’s also a very good bit of theatre – so hopefully will be seen long after May the 19th.
Runs until 19 May 2018 | Image: Contributed