NSFW[Not Safe For Work] is a representation of the murky world of lads-mags (‘you don’t read them for the articles’ kind of stuff) and women’s fashion publications. Waking Exploits are not, however, making any endorsements of such a business; rather they are raising important questions, such as sexualisation of teenage girls and the idea of the ‘perfect,’ and thus not so perfect, woman. With Lucy Kirkwood’s finely crafted script, they question these organisations’ and wider society’s part in what could arguably be called ‘the business of female objectification’.
The play cleverly juxtaposes two settings; one situated in the office of DOGHOUSE magazine ‘for the boys,’ and the other in the equivalent workplace of the ELECTRA magazine, ‘for the girls’.
In the first of these episodes we are presented with the testosterone filled space of the DOGHOUSE: Grand Theft Auto is being played by Rupert (Harry Ferrier), a moustache wearing ‘journalist’ with a blue blazer slightly too big for him, as the audience walks in. This is fuelled even further by the introduction of the burly boss Aiden (Will Thorp), whose character goes from concerned boss to overpowering misogynist and back to concerned boss within the space of an hour. Even the female amongst them, Charlotte (Joanna Simpkins) has to play ‘the man’s game’ to get ahead, something she can’t admit to her weekly women’s group.
This is mirrored in the second installment of the night with the female editor of ELECTRA (Ri Richards) when she uses her powers of manipulation to get Sam (Jonathan Brindley), a Frank Spencer kind of incarnation, to admit his ex-girlfriends ‘flaws’.
Director Anna Poole has ingeniously staged this production to establish and convert the power dynamics at play within the script. This is no more evident than when Aiden is confronted by Mr Bradshaw(Richard Corgan), the father of the 14 year old girl mistaken for an 18 year old whose topless picture won a competition at DOGHOUSE magazine. This play and its power dynamics is a risky tightrope for any director to mount, but Poole has pulled it off superbly.
She is aided with a wonderfully clever set (Ruth Stringer) which allows for moments of hierarchal distance across the crisp white cosmopolitan stage and instances of extreme claustrophobia; such confrontations needed for the morality of the characters to be questioned.
All performances are strong, although the pace did lull in places where the dialogue could have been snappier in the comic moments. Particular mention must go to Will Thorp for his complex performance of Aiden’s moral conflict, and Ri Richards for her hilarious portrayal of a woman striving to offer women personal aesthetic perfection when she firmly believes it doesn’t exist.
These are, of course, only as strong due to the very solid support they had from their fellow players, not a weak link among them, albeit some weak moments from them all.
This is a fun night out leaving the audience with some important things to consider. Definitely worth a watch.
Writer: Lucy Kirkwood
Director: Anna Poole
Chapter Arts Centre