BWW Review: BLUSH, Soho Theatre
Five people face the shame that comes with being exposed in the digital age: a woman dealing with her younger sister's sex tape being published; a father coming to terms with his daughter's sexuality and his relationship with porn; a scorned woman's revenge on an ex-boyfriend; an app developer's faux pas; and a young woman's self-love discovery that turns against her. The tales are joined by a thread consisting of sex, porn, and the impulsiveness and appeal of new media.
Written (and performed) by Charlotte Josephine, BLUSH paints a chilling picture of the dangers that come when desire and sharing platforms are mixed together. Winners of The Stage Edinburgh Award and following a sold-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Josephine and Daniel Foxsmith, as directed by Ed Stambollouian, open a conversation on shame, blame, consent and moral compass.
They are not afraid to defiantly challenge taboos, their stories being vehicles to address sexism, the placing of responsibility, revenge porn, and invasion of privacy. On a bright red circular carpet - which brilliantly recalls the recording light on a camera - and surrounded by soft boxes and other lighting fixtures, Josephine and Foxsmith embark on what feels like a 70-minute sprint.
The intricacy of the five plots weigh quite heavily on the narrative, and although the actors are capable of helping the audience differentiate one character from the other through body language and accents, sometimes the changes seem too quick and hasty. However, by setting such a fast pace and by showing snippets of the characters' trains of thought that lead them to disaster, they manage to demonstrate clearly the rapidity and impulsivity of our technology-crowded world.
It shows that the addiction to sharing our lives with friends and strangers stems from the simplest things: "I start to wonder if I'm fading, somehow," whispers a young woman who's living in loneliness in London. She hasn't been physically touched by anyone in days, so she starts posting photos of herself in an attempt to feel loved.
Revenge porn also has a colossal part in the play - from an 18-year-old whose private videos have been shared by thousands online, to (unwanted) pictures sent by an ex-boyfriend and distributed on the internet in attention-seeking revenge. Josephine's writing aims the spotlight at how radical and indelible behaviours like these are, and how much it takes to recover from the shame and humiliation that they attract.
Josephine swaps character tics and attitudes in the blink of an eye, and Foxsmith's apprehension and blatant sexism make his performance exemplary. Both actors' performances stand as models for the modern age.
BLUSH is without a doubt a play that strikes a chord, especially with the younger generations who grow up with social media and for whom hacking, content theft and public media shame are not merely tales but real, disturbing threats.
A powerful reflection on the ease of sharing too much, or with the wrong people, breaking someone's trust, seeking revenge by publicly humiliating someone, and trying to recover from digital harm, the show benefits from the not-too-far-fetched recollections of Josephine and Foxsmith's characters: it might have not happened to you, but it very well could.
Intimate photos and Tweets are effortless to take and write, and so is sharing them. The duo shines a light on how blurred the lines of blame can become, and on how nearly impossible and paradoxical it sometime is to even decide that there is someone to blame. The result is a combination of powerful critique and honestly providing facts, making the play an interesting take on the subject.
Stambollouian's direction is striking, infused with bizarre and energetic dancing intervals which, acting as a metaphor for the frenzy and senseless of the actions portrayed, give the production dynamism.
Certainly a work that goes far beyond the stage, BLUSH has the potential to create a dialogue with its audience, engaging them and acting as a potent reminder of how destruction is only a click away.