I knew it was going to be controversial, even before I saw the play. All one has to do is look at the title to know it will aim to shock and awe, and yes, the daily papers are in a tizz. Their main objection seems to be that the women in the show are objectified and rather than a commentary on a gender war, it is nothing but sexually violent crap wrapped up as art.
I didn’t sit there throughout the play feeling indignant for the plight of women, however one thought did cross my mind and that was ‘what are we doing to each other’. When a play begins with two women shooting a man, calculatedly, at close range and in cold blood then proceeding to pleasure themselves on his dead limbs, it is hard to have too much pity for the idea of woman as victim.
The play continues in its absurdesque cycle and we find ourselves back at the hotel room and a calculated close range shot only this time the roles are reversed and it’s a woman lying dead on the bed. This is what should be the core of the play – the hypocrisy of our different reactions when watching the same scene. The play continues and each vignette showing the subtle manipulations both genders inflict on the other and I will admit – hearing a man berate a woman has an impact that even watching a woman humiliate a man doesn’t have. This is a fascinating idea that doesn’t get properly played out – because of the desire to shock.
The Director, Netta Yashchin made no bones about the choice of play and it’s determination to shock while being interviewed by the aforementioned tizzy newspapers. The playwright understands the polemic and while she denies it is a manifesto, certainly aims to get people riled in their seats. The performers work with great energy. The two girls, Valerie and Agnes, played by Katherine Beck and Zoe Trilsbach are able to vacillate between whore and put upon and back to jelly wrestling skank with relative ease. The men, Rodney and Owen (Benjamin O’Donnell and Troy Harrison) are shown to be violent, controlling and misogynistic with moments of reflection provided by the entry of Jane Fonda into their manic dream sequences. Jane, played by Kellie Jones, provides the ubiquitous comment on the cult of celebrity that plays need to have, these days. That being said, Jones plays Fonda with a nuance that I would have liked to see throughout the play which brings me back to my point, if you aim to shock then you are in danger of losing your statement and subtext.
In my opinion, there was nothing in That Pretty Pretty…that you wouldn’t see on Desperate Housewives, the only difference is here you get it uncensored and live in front of your face. The constant harsh dialogue and physical violence only create the controversy that drowns out what should be the strength of a play such as this – and that is, what are we doing to each other?