Edinburgh Fringe 2016
Blush, written by Charlotte Josephine and presented by Snuff Box Theatre, tells five candid stories about revenge porn and all its many victims. And explores where our desire to shame others comes from, the unwritten laws of gender-related responsibility and how the shame we feel at not measuring up spills out sideways into acts of violence.
I did wonder whether a reviewer on the wrong side of middle age was the right person to assess a piece of theatre about an issue that mostly affects the young. By five minutes in I wanted every parent, every grandparent and every teacher to see it as well as anyone who has ever been tempted to share explicit pictures of themselves with anyone online; however trusted they were at the time.
The UK helpline defines revenge port as a ‘term used to describe sexually explicit media that is publicly shared online without the consent of the pictured individual’.
This fast paced two hander tells five stories of the impact of ‘revenge porn’ on both the initiator and victims through interweaving monologues; three are women, two are men. The ways the stories play out are different and serve to highlight a whole range of issues. They highlights how quickly the power and speed of the internet – so valuable much of the time – can be incredibly destructive at others. A click made in anger or frustration; when drunk or high can start a ripple that spreads faster and faster until no one can stop it. In one of the stories, 30,000 men are looking at images of an 18yr girl that her ex-boyfriend sent to two friends… in another a lonely young woman is drawn into sending photos of herself to an apparently attentive
Charlotte Josephine’s writing is beyond fast paced, it breaks the sound barrier in places, and packs an incredible punch at every turn. She explores where the desire to shame others comes from and, particularly interesting, the unwritten laws of gender-related responsibility. It seems that women will often end up the victim even when they are the apparent perpetrator.
Josephine also performs the piece together with Daniel Foxsmith. Both are talented and versatile and give performances that are pacey, powerful and completely on top of the complex, high speed script. At points they provide various off stage voices to the other – it wasn’t clear why they used a script for these, it was a little distracting.
One of the (numerous) powerful moments was showing the kind of comments that people (sadly mostly men) feel able to leave when they are anonymous. Hearing them could have been tedious and repetitive as well as distasteful but Josephine and Foxsmith delivered dozens of them at such speed that the sheer enormity of the impact hit us like a bullet.
Director Edward Stambollouian supports the pace of the writing by making use of the entire space on a minimal set in which on stage lights provide much of the shape.
Each of the five characters goes on a journey and we see indication of the potential impact in both the short and the long term – highlighting the gender differences. For most of the characters there is some sense of hope at the end which we need in the context of the drama; however, I suspect that in real life such resolution isn’t always achieved and the effects are even more devastating and long lasting.
This is an incredibly powerful piece of work that deserves to be seen by a wide audience and has tremendous potential to start conversations about the nature not just of revenge porn but of wider issues of sharing personal material online; the impacts and the different attitudes to gender responsibility. Go and see it.
For anyone who would like more information or has been affected by revenge porn there is a helpline and information at:
Tel: 0845 6000 459