Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Theatre review: We Want You To Watch

Rashdash and Alice Birch don't want you to watch, actually. Porn, that is, although a warning against this show might have been more helpful all round. Helen Goalen and Abbi Greenland play two women on a mission, and as soon as they figure out exactly what that mission is I'm sure they'll let us know, but the main thing is they really don't like porn. It's violent pornography in particular they have an issue with, but just to be safe they'd like to get rid of all types, and possibly all of society, and replace it with ??????? We Want You To Watch opens at least with something resembling logic, albeit a spurious kind: The pair are interviewing a man (Lloyd Everitt) with a porn addiction and a particular preference for violent rape fantasies. He's suspected of murdering and mutilating a young woman in ways that mirror his favourite videos. There's no proof though, and the women's initially confident case falls apart.

They next attempt to get the Queen (Helena Lymbery) to sign a bill banning all pornography, and when this fails toy with the idea of killing a child (Adam Charteris) before he can grow up to be corrupted, and corrupt other in his turn.

They finally get an '80s idea of what a computer geek looks like (Bettrys Jones) to turn off the internet, but this has the side-effect of making an old man (Peter Marinker) drop his shopping bags, so everyone has to do contemporary dance for a bit, while our heroines run on the spot. ENDUT! HOCH HECH!

The fact that Oliver Townsend's design is packed with tin cans with "SEX" written on them - because sex is a commodity DO! YOU! SEE! - is an early bad sign that at best we're in for an hour of honking great cliché, and Caroline Steinbeis' production never gets over the feeling that we're watching student theatre with a larger-than-usual budget. But the biggest problem is that Goalen, Greenland and Birch's facts and motivations are muddled, and while they often, unapologetically admit to this, there's no attempt to rectify it. So while I can't say I don't find the idea of violent porn unpleasant, even their opening argument is essentially the same one that says playing video games or watching too much TV are the cause of real-life shootings. Their only solution is wholesale censorship with themselves as arbiters, but they know censorship is A Bad Thing so they mutter about it but don't have an alternative. And while, believe it or not, I'm no expert on heterosexual pornography, I find the show's implication that the vast majority of porn in existence is rape porn, a tad [citation needed].

For a show about pornography it's also weirdly coy about sex - and although there's moments where the Queen describing how sex feels through the gift of interpretative dance is funny, the sequence lasts several minutes. The writers have obviously found a subculture that's not very palatable, but as in the opening scene they fail to find any convincing cause-and-effect between nasty fantasy and violent reality, so they spend an hour telling us "we don't like this" in increasingly tedious ways.

We Want You To Watch by Rashdash and Alice Birch is booking until the 11th of July at the National Theatre's Keith.

Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes straight through.

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