27 January 2016

Clickbait at Theatre503 was original, sparkling and surprising


There was no better way to spend my birthday than going to the my favourite theatre, Theatre503 in Battersea. I would have gone to see Clickbait sometime anyway but having a birthday made picking the date easier. It also made deciding to eat a decent meal downstairs in the Latchmere beforehand easier.

But first I had to get my steps done and the way that I did that was to get off the Victoria Line at Victoria and walk the rest of the way, going over Chelsea Bridge and through Battersea Park. That was a pleasant route, even in the dark, though the bridge tugged at my vertigo tendencies.

I knew that Clickbait was about a young woman involved in the porn industry so I was a little concerned about being the dirty old man in the audience and that was not helped when while we were waiting to go in one of the cast came out to make a phone call dressed in school uniform. It reminded me of the Japanese Lolita fashion as seen in Kill Bill Vol 1 and the V&A.

Despite my worries I sat in the middle of the front row as usual anyway.

The simplistic summary of Clickbait is that a young woman reacts to some revenge porn of herself being posted online by taking it head-on and posting more porn but this time under her control.

As the demand for this grew she called on the reluctant help of her younger sister and the enthusiastic help of her youngest sister (it was her in the school uniform earlier).

Clickbait was written by Milly Thomas who I had seen not long before at Theatre503, playing the young girl in the very wonderful Animals.

To give just a flavour of the content and the humour I give you this little scene. The girls' porn business is constrained by supply as only the oldest girl, Nicola, is producing any material so the youngest, Chloe, made some herself only for her sisters to realise that as she was only 15 that was technically child porn and they were in possession of it. They urgently demanded that it be deleted and, once done, also demanded that Chloe remove it from Trash too at which suggestion she looked at them disdainfully and explained that she had already done that because she knows how to use a computer as she is not thirty.

Humour played a great part in the play but there were plenty of other riches such as the relationships between the three sisters and between Nicola and her boyfriend, the way that Nicola flipped between hero and villain as the story evolved and also as we learned more about what had happened earlier, and the alternative view of the porn industry in a story about young women in porn written by a young woman (Milly Thomas).

The story went in two surprising directions thematically and chronologically. As the business developed the women took it in a new direction, and the three teddy bears at the front featured in this, and their attitude to the business changed, and that's where the big teddy bear at the back came in. We also learned more about the revenge porn incident.

The storytelling was fresh and original and I liked the way that the social media aspects, such as the comments below the videos, were read by the cast while wearing animal masks and moving oddly.

There was a feeling of ambiguity throughout, and that was also manifested as tension, as the hero/villain conundrum was explored but never resolved, nor could it be as there was not an objective position to judge the women's behaviour from.

Despite the subject matter this was a very clean show that you could take your granny too, though some of the language might upset her. There was plenty of porn but only the people on the stage could see it, though we could hear it. Sitting in the middle of the front row was not a problem.

Clickbait was very thought provoking because of the subject matter and the way that it approached it, and it was also hugely entertaining because of the constant stream of funny lines. All three girls, Georgia Groome,  Amy Dunn and  Alice Hewkin, were excellent. The support from Barney White as all the men was excellent too.

I do not mind getting older when I get birthday treats like this one.

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