Thinking about feeling

16 April 2019

Liam Rees wants to feel more in Things We Do Not Know

I’m going to start this with a disclaimer: I’m not sure how, as a man, to approach a review of Things We Do Not Know. For all that I lived in Edinburgh’s 'Pubic Triangle' (named after the trio of strip clubs) and am thus familiar me with the type of men who are presented on stage callously degrading female sex workers, even though it’s not 100% the same, I hardly feel qualified to pass comment on the issues raised.

Speaking as objectively as I can about the show itself (which isn’t actually possible but let’s not go down that rabbit hole...) it does exactly what it says on the tin – it is indeed an exploration of female street sex workers’ experiences and it is certainly informative. The women’s stories undoubtedly deserve to be heard but the form becomes repetitive and there are some issues with how the actors approach the source material. For the most part they seem to perform as themselves, text in hand or not, but in one monologue there’s a clear distinction between the actor being herself talking to the audience and then acting as the woman in question with a pronounced change in accent and body language. It feels like an imitation of the source material where the others have internalized it. Neither approach is wrong but having both of them side by side creates a strange inconsistency.

The combination of movement, song, and intimate handwashing lends a lovely tenderness to what could easily be an exploitative piece that relies on shock tactics. In this context, the gentleness is clearly a rejection of the Shocking & Relevant Issue Play version that could’ve been made. I learned some things, some thoughts were provoked but not many emotions elicited.

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Image credit: Beatrice Debney