Louise Orwin’s Oh Yes Oh No is certainly a piece to be talked about… once you’ve found the words. The blurb for this show makes it out to be a witty, probably funny, straight up, no nonsense presentation on that ‘taboo’ subject of what sex is really like. It is, however, a shocking, difficult, and confusing mix of styles covering that taboo subject of violent sexual fantasies.
A piece of paper with the words ‘Trigger Warning: Please note this show contains descriptions of sexual violence’ is handed out along with the tickets and herein is the glimpse into the main subject of the evening. The programme was handed out after the show, whether intentionally or not, it helped decipher what Orwin is trying to say. But as she says, she remains ambiguous on the matter, it’s a half-conclusion to the questions she raises. However, by presenting this piece of work, a step has been taken toward breaking the barrier. ‘There is nothing more powerful than asking a woman what she wants, and giving her the space to answer.’
It felt like there was more awkwardness coming from the men in the audience than the women. There were a lot of vivid accounts of sexual assault given via audio recordings by the survivors of these attacks, and descriptions of fantasies by women who have them. But an important subject was raised – women should be allowed to choose what they want to fantasise about, yet this must not lead to a societal acceptance of violence towards women. Where is the line? Just how frequently is it crossed? Orwin certainly got the audience thinking anyway.
Using a mix of technical visuals and sounds, with some awkward dancing, singing and audience participation thrown in – one wonders at times whether Orwin struggled to decide on just one way to present her ideas. It’s a bizarre mix of tools and yet that is the beauty of the show; it’s random yet it works. The main visual used is a real-time projection of a ‘fantasy space’ – a small table set with a Barbie Doll who throughout the play experiences many sexual encounters with not only her Ken, but another Ken, and in a way, the audience. Later, the audience is put in the mind of someone who wants to be dominating, very cleverly and subtly. The tension rose throughout the theatre as the realisation dawned as to what was happening. All in all, a difficult subject matter, yet an important one. The programme notes are definitely worth a read and provoke even more questions following on from the ones that the audience leave with.
The Camden’s People’s Theatre is currently running ‘Hotbed: A Festival of Sex’ and as an opener to that, there was a short welcome talk given in the foyer before the doors opened. The audience took their seats with an excited anticipation yet left with a definite subdued-ness. Here lies the result of Orwin’s work, and her aim in fact – get society thinking.
Review by Hannah Hemming
Let’s talk about sex, baby.
We live in a world saturated with sexual imagery – but how often do we talk about sex as it’s really felt, experienced or imagined? And why is theatre so seldom a part of that conversation?
Hotbed is CPT’s brand new festival of sex: three weeks of adventurous performance guaranteed to expand your carnal knowledge. From the ubiquity of porn to the secrets of your sexual fantasies, from a celebration of sex-positivity to the difficulties of representing sex onstage, this twenty-one night stand lays bare sex, 2017-style. Come join us at CPT’s sexual congress for a bit of what you fancy – and more.
Oh Yes Oh No
Booking until 11th May, 2017
Venue: Camden People’s Theatre
58-60 Hampstead Rd, Kings Cross, London NW1 2PY