RashDash present We Want You To Watch at West Yorkshire Playhouse this month. Commissioned by The National Theatre, the script is penned by Alice Birch and examines the consequences of pornography in a digital world with the subsequent fallout from it being censored by a nation who appear addicted, desensitized and depraved.
The script is born through collaboration between RashDash and Alice Birch. RashDash are known for their avant-garde performance style and peerless intimacy, always challenging their audience with an intimidating experience. We Want You To Watch has many of the RashDash ingredients and is no doubt an engaging product with bold direction and arresting performances, but in terms of the writing the collaborative process hasn’t quite produced a solid piece of cohesive theatre. Birch’s script touches on the problems of mass pornography for a digitally native generation, but the narrative drifts into psychosis and psychedelia as opposed to expanding upon the real repercussions of pornography being banned. The theards of a number of established characters are also quickly forgotten and the piece feels more like the first half of a two act play. There are moments of We Want You To Watch which truly take flight, however, including a hugely comic episode with the Queen who utilises symbolic movements to visualise sex in dance, whilst an elderly man who has lost his grip on life and identity is gently realised with an uneasy slowness which is brutally engaging.
Helen Goalen and Abbi Greenland, the founder members of RashDash, demand close attention in their roles, providing an added potency through a relentlessly energetic and intense performance. At times furious then furtive, their syncopative performances rocket at a unabated pace. Caroline Steinbeis’ direction is also sharp and lean with fast transitions and an almost manic amount of movement which contributes to the play’s unrelenting ride.
The staging has an industrial feel, punctuated with hundreds of tins of Value Condensed Sex, a nod towards Andy Warhol who was producing highly sexed films as performance in the early 1970s. Manufactured, mass processed and delivered as a gaudy ready meal, it’s an indelible visualization of the pornographic industry as instant food for the libido.
It’s a rare thing when an audience leave a performance and everybody seems to have seen a different play. Brave, disobliging and full of hubris, We Want You To Watch is a fitfully energetic show which challenges and entertains. Like everything that RashDash produces, this play is brimming full of colourful originality and shocking verve. However it skirts around the primary issue that it promises to address, with ideas which feel loose, dislocated and incomplete. For its sheer resourcefulness and outrageous sketchiness though, We Want You To Watch is certainly worth a peek.