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  • Flora Gosling

Review: We Want You to Watch (theSpace on Niddry Street)

Updated: Jun 2, 2022

Voyeurism is a difficult topic to challenge through theatre; you can't criticise people taking enjoyment by looking at sexual images, without giving them a sexual image to look at. Playwright Alice Birch is all too aware of the irony, and uses it to her advantage in We Want You to Watch; an absurdist attack on the objectifying culture she sees emerging from our unlimited access to violent pornography.

Birch’s attitude towards porn is divisive; the politics of the performance are so extreme that one could believe it is satire. Two scantily-clad characters Pig and Sissy have had enough of pornography polluting the minds of everyone around them. They endeavour to get rid of it forever, by whatever means necessary, assuring us “we’re completely pro-sex”. They accuse a man of murder based on the porn he watches, abduct the Queen to persuade her to ban it, and approach some kind of world-controlling dominatrix to turn off the internet.

Politics aside, this is a difficult play to get through. Aside from some interesting physical theatre pieces (which are rather undermined by the elongated dance sequence at the end), the characterisations are irritating and the writing comes off as trying to shock for the sake of it. At best it adds nothing to the conversation around pornography and at worst it acts as propaganda. A scene describing the future of a young boy, to grow up, be corrupted by porn, and be plagued by his animalistic instincts for the rest of his days is nothing more than a cheap “think of the children” card.

The performances themselves range from middling to pretty good, but the direction and staging often feel clunky, and I spent more time worrying about the safety of the actor atop giant “cans of sex” than enjoying their performances. There is a small but fervent audience for We Want You to Watch, but it is acquired, and notably sour, taste. Two stars.

Whispers from the Crowd:

"I liked it, pretty powerful, difficult to watch. Pretty pacey."

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