Creampie, Theatre N16 - The Bedford, Balham - Review

"God bless the internet."
American Pie

For millennials, X-rated material has always been readily accessible via computers or smartphones etc. With its ubiquity, it's harder to imagine now a time when such content could only be 'consumed' via magazines or VHS  cassettes. Crossline Theatre (Canadian artists Natalia Knowlton and Kara Chamberlain) address this notion, delving occasionally into [Clare McIntyre's] Low Level Panic territory, but using comedy sketches and verbatim theatre to show society's perspective on the use of pornography and its own conflicted relationship with it.      

The verbatim parts of the show highlight the fact that it is more commonplace for boys AND girls at the cusp of adolescence to start looking at such materials as a frame of reference, to see if their bodies fall within the 'normal' range of the spectrum. For those that haven't formal sex education classes at school or taught the basics by their parents, this has been the sole source of 'information', however skewed it may be. For those who have questioned their own sexuality, it can be a litmus test for verifying one way or another their predilection.

Received wisdom says that obsessive use of pornography can impair one's chances of forming mature, lasting relationships. In one telling monologue, a 'man' discusses his use of such material. On one hand he knows prolonged use is 'bad', but on the other hand admits he 'uses' it from time to time. It did occur to me that the conversation sounded like talking about smoking and knowing intellectually something's not good for you doesn't stop a person partaking anyway. The character made a reference to the fact that most content online is free and I think it is a major factor why such a high percentage of people access it. Universal 'paid for' content would certainly reduce pre-adult consumption of such material, but perhaps not as much for adults.

The latter half of the show is inspired by Milly Thomas' play Clickbait with its questions regarding feminism and pornography, and whether it is even theoretically possible to have a 'third way': a 'product' that at least some women would consider as 'ethically' the right direction – created by- and for women.

In the end, there are universal agreements on the 'rightness' of its use, nor is it ever likely to be. And because of it is often 'consumed' in private, away from prying eyes, pornography is by its nature is 'tolerated' because it's something that has to be sought out and not in your face 24/7. Now, the depiction of women and 'beauty' in everyday adverts – that's where the real battle for the hearts and minds of women lies.

In devising this show, Knowlton and Chamberlain have shown themselves to be fearless and imaginative, with their finger on the pulse of this social phenomenon. Without being didactic, Crossline Theatre have shown through humour, flair and human experience the direct impact that erotica has on the development of the sexes and their relations with each other.

© Michael Davis 2016

Creampie ran at Theatre N16, The Bedford, London on 11th-12th July 2016


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