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NSFW

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The role of women in a voyeuristic magazine culture that is perpetuated by both sides of the coin; the lads mag Doghouse and the glamour glossy Elektra; is the starting and ending point of Lucy Kirkwood’s NSFW (or Not Safe For Work). The play succeeds in raising questions of how women are represented in the media but fails to provide many answers.

The team at Doghouse magazine find themselves in the eye of the storm of a legal battle after unknowingly featuring an underage topless girl in their magazine. What follows is the showdown between the outraged father (James Wardlaw) and the smarmy editor, played in all his sadistic and manipulative glory by Ben Prendergast.

Personal morals of the Doghouse staff are questioned – notably the resident Oxford graduate and member of her local women’s group Charlotte (Kasia Kaczmarek). The fallout of the publication sees sensitive young journo (Matthew Whitty) seek employment at a neighbouring rag to shake off some of the sleaze from Doghouse, however eerily similar scenarios involving the visual consumption of woman play out over at Elektra under their tough as nails editor (Olga Makeeva) too.

Creating a dialogue around the issue of sexualisation and media-generated ideas of beauty may be the NSFW’s intention, yet there are aspects that need to be driven home more effectively when meanings aren’t as perfect as an airbrushed centrefold. When the cultural setting of the play is the one we are currently living in, it means that dialogue needs to be strong and direct. Here, there are places where it falls flat and becomes a mere comment about this culture or worse – acceptance of the gritty world of glossies.

With Tanya Dickson’s direction so capable and the cast a sharp and talented bunch of actors, it’s a shame the text leaves us simply with food for thought. That being said, it’s one to make your own mind up about, as NSFW’s strength lies in its obtuseness.

NSFW plays at Red Stitch Actors Theatre until 21 December. Tickets are available at redstitch.net.


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