Review: NSFW

NSFW
Image credit: Source: ADC Theatre

NSFW was totally safe for work, unless you count Louis Elton briefly showing us his hairy bottom and rubbing it on his boss’ desk.

Directed by Kim Alexander and starring a selection of ADC regulars, NSFW was nearly passable, but was let down by its script, which was purely mediocre. The play is set first in the offices of a fictional lads mag, featuring all the tropes you thought might have died by now: the toff from Eton who antagonises women and talks about his Daddy a lot; the working-class-girl-done-good who has the strongest moral fibre of the lot; the stuttering intern who really really needs to get paid; and the slimy alpha boss who flirts with his female staff and twists people’s words. Oh and I nearly forgot the kicker: the man from Manchester who is unemployed, carrying a plastic bag, and is a ‘bad’ father. This opening act could easily have been the entirety of the play - had we remained in this setting an office-banter-play-with-heart could have emerged, but no, we had to have some drama in the form of underage nudity. So the second act is about Morals and Choices and Breasts and bad men like the boss, Aidan (played well by Thomas Warwick) repulsing good women like Charlotte (Jasmine Rees), and crushing the morals of upstanding men like Mr. Bradshaw (Ben Martineau) and Sam (Jaime Bisping).

And then, when I thought that might be the end, no, we had a third act to underline the hypocrisy of both sides of print journalism circa 2012. Scene change to a women’s magazine along the lines of Cosmo, and a predatory and salacious editor, Miranda (played by to a tee by Becky Shepherdson), is interviewing our stuttering intern, Sam, after he has been fired over the whole underage-nudity thing. Sam acts as nothing but a sounding board to Miranda’s degradation of the female form, asking him to draw ‘red circles’ around the women’s ‘imperfections’, while he protests that he cannot. Rupert, the Toff played by Elton, also reemerges as a kind of eunuch, unable to talk due to the botox injections the women at the magazine have subjected him to. This could have been funny, but dressing a man as a woman and then making them silent in comparison to their previously loquacious male persona makes me deeply uncomfortable.

The play, first produced in 2012, has dated badly, and the content feels nothing short of irrelevant to modern print journalism. Lads’ mag culture has been rapidly declining over the last 5-10 years, as has a culture of women circling other women’s ‘flaws’. Ask most fourteen year-old girls today, and they’ll tell you they know about body positivity and self-care. They may still be negatively influenced by media portrayals of women (and men) but there is a tide of change that seems unlikely to stop, making NSFW the cautionary tale we have already heard, and heeded.

The production itself was good, with excellent acting throughout and the staging worked well in Corpus, which is rare for a show with more than two or three actors. The dialogue could have been sharper and faster in the comedic sections, but several interludes were genuinely funny and original. Had the script been stronger, or heavily edited, this could have been very good, but unfortunately, the play fell entirely flat.

5/10

 

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