Manwatching, Royal Court

An anonymous woman frankly monologues about taboo sexual fantasies, abortion, orgasms and what turns her on. It’s honest, personal and as a fellow woman, easy to relate to. But rather than a woman performing the text, Funmbi Omotayo is given the script onstage having never read it before. The experiment to explore the effects of a man delivering a woman’s words on female sexuality has good intentions, but it doesn’t work. Most of the content is common female experience, and there is no primary narrative thread. The reading is often clumsy and flat and with little to look at, the piece lacks much of a dynamic.

Consent, rape and being used by men is a common theme in her fantasies, but as a woman, I’m unsurprised – it’s one of the most common female sexual fantasies. Louise Orwin’s recent Oh Yes Oh No also focuses on this paradox and the taboo of discussing it in a society fighting for equal rights for women, but neither piece does much more other than put it into the open. Of course this is important in understanding often-simplified female sexuality, but here there is little comment on it other than a few mentions of it being mildly uncomfortable for the writer. Hearing a male discuss it, if anything, is disempowering.

More interesting is the short section on the complex emotional experiences woman can have following an abortion, and how common they are  – 1 in 3 women have had an abortion, but due to the issue’s political ties, it is much more taboo to discuss openly.

Perhaps this show would be powerful and revelatory to older men, but its no secret to younger generations that women wank, watch porn, have abortions and harbour dark sexual fantasies they don’t actually want to act out. A male voice doesn’t really add much to the experience of the story, apart from a few moments of obvious discomfort. A man reading anecdotes of female sexual experience has a base level of discomfort, but the lack of theatricality quickly becomes tedious. Whilst it’s a great experiment to conduct, it certainly isn’t one that’s generally successful.

Manwatching runs through 20 May.

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