Walking home late after work in a huge hooded coat, baggy trousers and half of my face covered by a turtleneck, I thought I would avoid the regular heckles on the street. But according to the man I passed crossing the street my barely visible cheekbones nose and eyes were enough to prompt the remark: ‘sweetheart’. On my day off I thought that being in my house meant I would be safe from the comments of men. But when I opened the door to the NSPCC charity salesmen, the first thing out of one’s mouth was ‘wow’ coupled with a lingering gaze up and down my body. It is these mundane, eyeroll, FOR FUCKS SAKE, occurrences that Wonderbox has captured in its new trifecta of comedies.
The first piece, StilettNO!, focused on the expectation of women to wear heels to work, felt at times as uncomfortable as the aforementioned shoe requirements. StilettNO! appeared to have been pulled from headlines surrounding the heel petition that arose a few years back. Thereby delivering a more blatant feminist frustration than the issues covered by the following pieces: The Night and Category: Teen. Not without merit however, as it’s documentarian style, with Danica Corns’ ongoing openly biased and annoyed narrator mocks the ignorant boss, hinting at the everyday privileges white rich men are often not even aware they are receiving.
The Night was situated entirely in a bathroom, in which three women discuss how they can get home from the party. This piece contains many moments of frustration as the trio attempt to plan a safe journey home but keep arriving at the reality that night buses, Uber, or walking are all unsafe options. It’s agitating to watch for those of us who understand the anxieties and very real dangers that navigating the dark city brings and hopefully opening to viewers that don’t face these fears. The Night gets more laughs its predecessor, and is the most continuously funny piece, mainly upheld by the drunk teacher Liv (Alice Merivale), who is desperate to enjoy her one night away from her responsibilities by acting like a primary school child herself.
The final in the trilogy was by far the most harrowing of the three. Category: Teenexplicitly demonstrated how porn effects young people’s sex education. At routine moments in the play three wanking men assemble at the front of the stage as the lighting creates shadows on the wall, they loom ominously like the ring wraiths that hunted Frodo around Middle Earth – just a bit more masturbatory. These hooded figures bestow their knowledge by listing in turn the categories of porn they indulge in and the qualities of the women in the videos: shaved pussy, big tits etc. Danica Corns, Carla Garratt and Jack Westgate are relatable and cringeworthy in their teenage portrayals reminding the audience how much you portend to know at this age. But actually, how worryingly little you do about consent, sexuality and your own pleasure, let alone a partner’s. Category: Teen poignantly tackles a near rape incident, which exemplifies how porn’s treatment of women leads young men, with no education on consent, to believe that saying no is a playful part of foreplay rather than a rejection that must be respected. It was this finale piece that felt the closest to the feminist exploration that was so expertly executed in A Womb of One’s Own. It’s a piece that could easily be expanded upon as whilst the point of porn’s potentiality to damage people’s understanding of sex is one I wouldn’t disagree with there are more complicated nuances to the Porn Industry than what was highlighted here.
The characters created throughout these pieces are not ones that would overtly label themselves as feminists, thereby giving strength to the messages relayed. It shows how everyday patriarchal society affects us all and that feminist conversions are being had, even by characters who could do with a brush up on their feminism, without realisation that they are having them. Claire Rammelkamp’s writing was much like her previous work, A Womb of One’s Own, consistently balanced between humour, and thought-provoking sincerity. However the views expressed, perhaps due to their everyday nature, weren’t ground breaking. Although the plays came from a basic and somewhat obvious feminism, it is sometimes these normalised sexisms that need to be revisited. Making the journey home from FFS full of debate issues of common occurrence that many of us are so accustomed to that we fail to question them.
Words, Billie Walker – @queen.feta
Images, Wonderbox Production