June 01, 2014

Let’s Not Beat Around The Bush

adrienne-truscott

People who live in London often bitch about living in London. Lord knows I do. Recently a handful of insults have been thrown at London by friends who have likened the London lifestyle to “that of a battery hen”, or “the blackening of internal organs on the tube while smelling a stranger’s armpit”.

Yes, city life can turn you into a mean witch, with the personality traits of Lord Voldemort on public transport. Rush hour is tough, grey hairs and wrinkles quickly multiply and the concept of “spare time” is becoming extinct, like the great woolly mammoth.

BUT — and there is a but – I do absolutely adore this city. People say there really is no better place especially in the sunshine. Anyone who doesn’t adore how the magic of London coated in sunlight must be hiding a long, wooden nose.

So, another moment this week which made me feel guilty about my incessant bitching, was a last minute trip to the Soho Theatre to Asking For It by Adrienne Truscott.

To amble five minutes down the road from work to an intimate theatre venue is something I wouldn’t ever want to take for granted. We have so much on our door step. The subject matter of this show was definitely not going to be light-hearted. But it’s something I knew I would learn something from, or get me thinking.

The play was going to address sexism, rape and had been branded as a “comedy” on the promotional poster. We were a little confused at such an controversial oxymoron, but more intrigued than anything else.

As we sat in our seats my friend Chloe pointed something out: “Blurred Lines” was playing on the stereo. We decided it was well-placed irony and settled down into our seats. 

The performance was so bloody good and clever that I simply will not be able to sum it up on this blog. It’s impossible. But I can do my best:

As soon as Adrienne entered the stage, I knew I’d found a new feminist heroine. The whole performance was a satire. A deep, dark, poignant satire. She opened with asking why everyone was so seemingly confused at what the definition of rape is.

Why do we have all these ridiculous terms like “legitimate rape”, “real rape”, “sort of rape”. “Do you know what rape is, ladies and gentlemen? If nothing else, RAPE IS RUDE”.

People cheered. We knew we were in for a night of bursts of laughter followed by eery heavy silences. She was funny. But should we be laughing? The point was that in this space, Adrienne was going to tell it how it is. No holds barred. And if we didn’t like it, we could leave. Adrienne would then joke about there being “one person who always leaves.” And then whispers “according to statistics, that’s normally the rapist”. 

Adrienne was wearing a long blonde wig, denim jacket, big pink bra and sipping on Schweppes “gins in tins”. She broke the ice by taking off layer upon layer of wigs and denim jackets (it was unexpected and hilarious that she had so many on top of each other). She had to “break the ice” because she was “in the nude” from the waist down. i.e. she had her bush out the entire time. It was a statement. I thought: “Adrienne, YOU ARE ONE BRAVE LADY.” I definitely needed a few gins and tonics before I read my teenage diary on stage not long ago – but controversial jokes with your muff out? This is a different story all together. Not only was this feisty comedienne in a new city, away from home, on a stage, and performing live – but she was completely baring everything. We could all see everything.

She would take the piss out of seemingly normal situations, which actually, are quite ridiculous and scary. Smaller things like when pervy men make stupid comments when women eat bananas (“I’d like to be that banana”, EW), or the fact that an increasing number of male white comedians made tasteless rape jokes this year, or that certain rap singers think it’s OK to joke about putting some “molly” in a girls drink and taking her home without her knowing. She had the most amazing talent of balancing her tongue-in-cheek tone of voice and quick quips, making the audience laugh and reflect simultaneously. TV clips and rap song lyrics were projected onto her naked body with the lights off. One minute we’re laughing, the next we have a stinging bitter after taste.  And a real tinge of sadness.

Adrienne also used very clever parallels, such as the way men gang up on women in a comedy arena / on panels, versus men ganging up on women in a sexually intimidating way.

The juxtaposition of both situations made the audience really think. You could practically hear the cogs whirring in people’s heads. 

Seemingly normal aspects of popular culture were used as catalysts to give the audience their own “WTF” moment. In America, when girls arrive at university, they are given a campus map, enrolment documents, keys to their new apartment and…a whistle. A whistle “just in case” they were to get sexually harassed. Which means it’s a common occurrence that they should be prepared for. To show how messed up that is, Adrienne burst into song (or should I say rap) to the “Whistle Song” by Flo Rida and she sang her own lyrics about rape whistles over the top. I definitely preferred her piss-take version. Some rap songs really are quite dark.

All in all, I’d definitely call this show a once in a lifetime performance. I feel so lucky to have seen it, to have been part of a intimate audience at a lovely theatre who embrace alternative shows and creative, bold talent.

Adrienne is an inspiration to everyone and encourages people to think outside of their comfort zone. She’s brave, clever, funny and fearless. She was bringing up incredibly important points and making a stand whilst not taking herself too seriously and I loved that about her. We saw a glimpse of the real Adrienne right at the very end, sans wig and padded bra, but not for long. For someone so brilliantly brave and bold, she also wasn’t afraid to show us a glimpse of her more vulnerable side. And it made me respect her even more.

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