Theatre preview: RashDash take on the challenging subject of porn

PIC: Richard Davenport

PIC: Richard Davenport

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RashDash theatre take on the challenging subject of porn in their latest show show, at the West Yorkshire Playhouse next week. Yvette Huddleston reports.

Theatre makers Helen Goalen and Abbi Greenland – founders and co-artistic directors of RashDash – are never afraid of tackling difficult subjects, but their latest piece which comes to the West Yorkshire Playhouse next week could be their most challenging yet.

In We Want You to Watch Goalen and Greenland, in collaboration with writer Alice Birch, take on pornography in a world where, thanks to the internet, it has never been more easily accessible. Commissioned by the National Theatre and directed by award-winning director Caroline Steinbeis, the play is an uncompromising 
and provocative exploration of the potentially damaging effects of porn on everyone, whether they choose to engage with it or not.

“It is something that we have been interested in for a while,” says Goalen. “There is a whole generation of young people growing up who are being exposed to porn and it is affecting the way young couples relate to each other.”

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Once Goalen and Greenland had teamed up with Birch, the three of them then spent several weeks researching the topic which included viewing a range of pornography.

“We wanted to get an idea of the breadth of material around,” says Goalen. “We tried to find feminist porn and things that we might like more and things that were less degrading, but it was difficult to find that. We also did a lot of academic reading and we were talking about it all the time.”

The point of the piece, Goalen explains, is to encourage debate and discussion, not to provide answers, but to raise questions.

“We want people to think about their own relationship with porn and to shape an opinion on the subject,” she says.

“It is becoming such a big issue – including the trafficking of 
women and the fact that the material is becoming more and more extreme – that you can’t totally avoid it. If you are a parent or if you know young people, you have to take it seriously and engage with it.”

Apart from the challenging subject matter, Goalen and Greenland then had to find a way of making their research and the material they had gathered into something that worked as a piece of theatre.

“It was a hard process to find the right form,” says Goalen. “We found that a lot of the stories we were coming across were quite small actually – in the sense of looking at a series of couples and how it was affecting them in subtle and extreme ways. For such a huge issue, a domestic story didn’t feel quite big enough so we decide to make it more surreal and theatrical.”

The premise is two women making a stand, who want to rid the world of porn, put a stop to it, switch it off. “Of course, that would never happen,” says Goalen. “It’s an unrealistic solution to the problem and every way they try to do that fails. But what would it be like to live in a world without porn?

“For some people ending porn raises questions of censorship and freedom of choice and we put in all those counter arguments throughout the show. And we have a forum on our website where we encourage people to contribute to the debate.”

Offering plenty of food for thought, We Want You to Watch is currently on tour and the reaction to it so far, according to Goalen, has been “really mixed”.

“We have had a whole range of responses,” she says. “And there have been a few misunderstandings of what our intentions are. It is dividing people, which is what we expected – it is a huge issue that people feel very strongly about – and what we really want is for the piece to start people talking about it.”

We Want You to Watch is at The West Yorkshire Playhouse, October 13-15 www.wyp.org.uk and at the Donald Roy Theatre, Hull University, October 19 and 20, tickets 01482 466141.

You can join the debate by visiting www.we-want-you-to-watch.co.uk

The award-winning theatre company 1927 s latest production Golem is at Harrogate Theatre this week.

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