Blush, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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The Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 makes sharing explicit images without consent of the person or persons in the images illegal. Though this legislation is progress in fighting revenge porn and posting sexual photos and images online by criminalising it, the problem hasn’t gone away. Charlotte Josephine’s BLUSH tells the stories of five unrelated individuals effected by revenge porn, trolling and the proliferation of easily accessible online pornography. Some of the stories more tenuously link to the theme, but the montage format and frantic, physical interludes provide a wider view of the problem and how people, usually young women, can have their lives ruined by the click of mouse.

Daniel Foxsmith plays a suburban dad with a penchant for teen porn, and a successful app developer invited to speak to young entrepreneurs in New York who makes some bad decisions on a night out. These characters have similar demeanours; Foxsmith could differentiate them further on order make them more distinct. Though they both get themselves into difficult situations, Josephine plays three different women more directly effected by explicit images online. Though two of these characters have anticipated narratives, the third, a ghosted woman with a strong Estuary accent, is a surprise but a great alternative perspective on the issue. All five characters have elements of stereotype, but their responses to their own conflicts reads as genuinely personal through the text and the actors’ interpretations.

Not just interweaving monologues, director Ed Stambollouian incorporates physical sequences that become more frequent and increasingly violent, bleeding into the text. As online and real life blur, emotions intensify, and a photo studio set reminds us that everything we do is on show and ripe for consumption by an anonymous audience of thousands. Josephine has created a good set of characters, though stronger links to the topic would demonstrate the universal risk surrounding revenge porn.

Even though the script is has merit, the use of physical theatre in relation to the issue and the characters’ experiences makes this a much stronger, more evocative production. Without a doubt, this is still an important issue that deserves stage time.

BLUSH runs through 28th August.

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Four Minutes Twelve Seconds, Trafalgar Studios

rsz_four_minutes_twelve_seconds_-_kate_maravan_2_-_photo_ikin_yumWhat do you do if your teenaged son’s ex-girlfriend accuses him of sexual assault? What if her family refuses to go to the police and takes justice into their own hands instead? Di (Kate Maravan) and David (Jonathan McGuinness) don’t know either, and they’re living this nightmare every moment of Four Minutes Twelve Seconds. They have huge aspirations for their bright boy, hoping he makes it out of the Croydon that they themselves never managed to leave. But those dreams are teetering precariously on top of vicious rumours…or are they facts? Seventeen-year-old Jack who the audience never sees, may or may not have uploaded a film, that may or may not show him forcing himself on his girlfriend Cara (Ria Zmitrowicz) in the run-up to his A-level exams. As his parents try to discover the objective truth of the situation, some awful discoveries come to light. In short, fast scenes spanning several months, social class, parental aspiration and sexism influence the four characters’ choices in this riveting, dialogue-driven one-act.

This energetic first play by James Fritz, writer of the acclaimed Ross & Rachel at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, doesn’t shy away from honest, infuriating material confronting ingrained attitudes that interfere with rape convictions (at the end of the play I was so angry I was shaking with the knowledge that these sorts of things probably happen all the time). A ferocious Maravan leads with an intense, focused performance and a satisfying character journey. To see a mother cope with drastically altering perceptions of her own child is heart rending, particularly as her husband’s views often clash with her own.

This is definitely an “issue” play, albeit a sophisticated one, that looks at the role of social media and the selfie culture in the lives of young people who don’t fully understand the implications of putting every detail of their life on the internet. It also looks at consent, sexist definitions of rape and how police view rape accusations. There’s also the question of how to treat crimes committed within one’s own family, vigilante justice and taking responsibility for mistakes. It’s a packed script, but manages to not overwhelm with ideas. Fritz’s dialogue is advanced for a first play, if formulaic in its gradual revealing of information. He liberally uses humour and nuanced humanity to counter the dark subject matter; these characters could easily be portrayed as stereotypes, like the sort in a bad TIE play.

On that note, this would be an excellent production to tour to secondary schools, colleges and unis, particularly since this attitude is so prevalent: https://metrouk2.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/12165535_470783216459605_1739814260_o.jpg?w=748&h=561&crop=1Frankly, this is a crucial piece of theatre that all young people growing up in our cyber-obsessed culture should see. With simple design elements that draw attention to the dialogue and story, it would be easy to tour this powerful production.

Four Minutes Twelve Seconds is hip as well as topical and provocative. Witholding Jack’s appearance draws attention to the wider impact of his actions rather than wallowing in his emotional state, a wise choice by Fritz. Excellent performances by the company and snappy dialogue keep our attention as well as enrage, but what would we do if we were in Di and David’s shoes? Though we all strive for justice for rape victims, we are but judgemental, selfish humans after all, and that is the real flaw in the system.


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