We Want You to Watch is a show about porn. Devised by Abbi Greenland and Helen Goalen, and written by Alice Birch, it sets out to interrogate the nature of pornography and explores this through its two protagonists, Pig and Sissy, and their desire to ‘blow its brains out and start again.’
The show is made up of a number of short playlets. In the first, a man is accused of violently raping a young woman and is interrogated by two detectives in high heels and trench coats who argue that his penchant for violent porn indicates his guilt. And so the debate begins: what is the real impact of pornography on society? The episode ends with him switching places with the detectives and him effectively interrogating them: how does the fact that he enjoys misogynistic and aggressive pornography prove he is capable of committing actual violence?
In next playlet, we see Queen Elizabeth tied up in a stateroom and made to sign a decree banning porn, the two protagonists using physical theatre to demonstrate exactly why she should. This represented a significant shift in tone and a complete change of setting to make another point: the sex we see in porn doesn’t represent how the majority of people experience it. Another valid part of the overall debate, but the abrupt change to satire jarred and was presented rather over-simplistically.
In the third piece, the two protagonists stand on top of an oversized supermarket shelf, filled with Warhol-esque cans labelled “Sex”. They narrate the life of young boy (sitting silently below throughout), whose first exposure to sex is through porn, and which ultimately results in his inability to achieve any real intimacy. This was another shift in tone and style, and built on Pig and Sissy’s desire to eradicate porn in its current form completely.
The last playlet sees the two protagonists attempt to persuade a candyfloss-coloured character called Megahacker to shut down the internet, while she barks orders at them through a megaphone. Pig and Sissy perform a range of actions, ranging from sit ups to vigorous rocking on a rocking horse, all while telling Megahacker why they want to reset the internet.
The show is a mixture of text and some very well-executed physical theatre; however, I feel that by presenting a series of contrasting playlets, RashDash never really fully engaged with the debate and, rather than interrogate any of the ideas, they presented a one-sided picture of the potentially harmful and exploitative nature of pornography. While they approached the subject of why some people need to use porn, suggesting that viewing it doesn’t always result in violent behaviour, they didn’t explore what would happen if we did reset porn, and what effect its eradication might have on the concept of freedom of speech. And, even if we did manage to reset it, would there be any reason to suggest that things wouldn’t just return to the way there were?
At times, the performers used comedy to provide much needed lightness (it’s quite possible I will never forget the Queen demonstrating how good sex makes her feel), which prevented the performance becoming an essay on humanity’s worst traits; however this did mean that, rather than deepening the debate and the possible consequences of engaging with porn, it broadened an already one-sided argument.
Where the piece really shone for me was in the physical theatre, particularly in extended moments when there was nothing else apart from a physical conversation between the two performers. It was in these silent and intimate moments that I felt as if a real debate was occurring and the audience was allowed the space to negotiate their own thoughts on the subject.
This is no doubt an important subject, and RashDash should be applauded for bringing it to the stage; it’s just a shame that it stops short of fully engaging in the debate.
There is an on-going conversation about the issues the show addresses at www.we-want-you-to-watch.co.uk.
Words from Carla Keen.