EDINBURGH 2013 - BWW Reviews: BAN THIS FILTH!, Scottish Storytelling Centre, August 4 2013
Alan Bissett has been making a name for himself in recent years through novels, plays and insightful contributions to the Scottish independence debate, including his fantastic poem "Vote Britain". He tackles a different contentious issue at this year's festival - pornography. In a spoken word performance at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, he weaves together his own present thoughts with past experiences and the writings of radical feminist Andrea Dworkin to tell the story of how he came to a feminist viewpoint, the development of his thoughts on pornography and the complications that being a man bring to consideration of that topic.
In a week where online abuse of women has been in the spotlight, this is a timely consideration of how attitudes of men towards women are formed and their consequences. With Bissett as an engaging host, the show has an easy interactivity, kicked off with a friendly natter with the audience as they enter. He doesn't hesitate to ask questions of his audience, starting the show proper by asking for a show of hands of self-described feminists, and then finding out how many of those are male. Not many is the unfortunate answer.
The show traces through Bissett's life, the experiences that formed both his own feminism as well as his masculine identity, and intersperses these with sections where he becomes Dworkin, reading from her work. Performed sections based on his youth support Dworkin's conclusions, such as the idea of boys being trained to violence from a young age. In these parts of the show, his observation of contemporary masculinity is spot on, both keenly observed and well captured in his performance.
Following his engagement with Dworkin through to publicly sharing her views on pornography, he is confronted with both his position as a man speaking on something he cannot truly understand, and the arguments about pornography within feminism, which he comes to see is not as simple as a unanimous movement.
An interesting, honest and thought-provoking show, "Ban This Filth!" engages its audience in a challenging subject without trying to wrap it up in a neat conclusion. Bissett leads the discussion in an articulate fashion, using well performed, witty personal reflections, and avoiding patronising his audience to create a production that is both entertaining and intellectually stimulating.
Ban This Filth! is at the Scottish Storytelling Centre each night until August 11th at 2100.