Oh dear. Something terrible happened last night, didn’t it? It was a ‘Very Bad Thing’ you did, wasn’t it? There are only some of the feelings associated with the morning after the night before that Sluts tries to translate to the stage, with invariably mixed success. Focusing on four broad archetypes, the slutty one, the stupid one, the stuck-up one and the sexy one, Sluts intends to be a piercing analysis of our post-feminist world. In reality, it is a clumsy swipe at our sex culture with little or no insight into what women really want or how they really live.
It is made abundantly clear from the start that these sluts are very familiar with abbreviated sex, but have only a remedial grasp on romance. They trot out the familiar clichés about Pretty Woman, discuss the finer points of Facebook private messaging and go to a nightclub that sounds vaguely like Coppers but isn’t actually Coppers. They are painfully modern women and they like their relationships in 140 characters or less, please. Yet, there is an undercurrent of sadness to it all. They tug on dresses that are too tight, they pull on each other’s hair extensions and they bandy the word ‘slut’ around like it’s a verb, preposition and pronoun. Yet, these girls are too shouty to be sympathetic, too brash to be anything resembling bold. They are severely emotionally stunted, going through the staples of femininity like there is a large list which needs to be checked off before the audience can relate to any form of female experience.. Women’s magazines? Tick. The Pill? Tick. Pathetic child-men? Tick.
These characters are understandable, indeed recognisable, but there is something incongruous about the set-up, something ‘a bit off’-like drinking Blue WKD from a wine glass. Certainly, they are damaged, but by what exactly? Culture? Themselves? Each other? Probably all three. Yet, they are impossible to like, to make even the most tenuous emotional connection with. Even the ‘wronged’ woman forfeits any sympathy she may have earned by announcing, ‘A good guy is a guy who wears nice suits and buys you nice things.’ I spent the rest of the production hoping she would self-immolate for the sake of the sisterhood.
Of course, it is the men who provide the impetus for each of the girls’ actions. There is no self-direction here or any sense of self-awareness. They simply speed from one guy to the next, while the play happily skips from one scenario to another without any pause for self-reflection. Sadly, the men are portrayed as insufferable, gurning idiots in plaid shirts who are incapable of even stringing a sentence together without falling all over themselves. They don’t even seem worth the hairspray wasted on them.
A mention must go to Laura Byrne who turns in a very sweet and understated performance as the earnest Anna. There is potential here, but what the team behind Sluts needs to learn is that sometimes less is more-think of it as not showing legs and cleavage at the same time. Never did think I would say this about a play entitled Sluts – but there is room for experience as, theatrically, it’s more than a little ‘like a virgin.’