A play that opens with four women in their underwear is always likely to pique our feminist hackles. It is raising a point or just trying to be racy? The titular Scarlet faces an online sexual humiliation that follows her well beyond her university years.
It is a subject that plays on the fears of everyone in the audience – what if my sexual history were laid out forever for all to see?
However, as the play makes clear, this is an issue that has far more ramifications for women than it does for men. When her sexual nature is exposed on social media, Scarlet faces ridicule and abandonment. When she tries to exact revenge on her, lets face it, rather unpleasant boyfriend, his exposure is greeted with male respect and female adoration.
Four women take on the role of Scarlet, their clearly divided costumes reflecting her multi-faceted nature. Designer Lydia Denno has done a great job styling her actors – and the set, with its stark lighting and central feature of the bed serves its purpose deftly.
All four actors rise to the challenge that this play presents admirably. Particularly impressive was Lucy Kilpatrick, whose comic asides contrasted with her ability to become truly menacing as the play's ominous sexual predator perfectly.
Young director Joe Hufton has dealt with this provocative subject matter in a remarkably nuanced way. As an audience, we don't always agree with Scarlet's decisions but we do empathise with her throughout. When the actors return to their underwear at the close of the play, we almost don't even notice. The point has been made – this is a woman in her own space acting as though away from all scrutiny. Yes it is necessary. Yes there is a point to it.
Background information: Scarlet
Scarlet's eponymous heroine wakes up one morning to discover that a pornographic video featuring herself and ten men has gone viral. Even more problematically, she has no memory of either the video or of the men concerned. But this does not stop the barrage of judgement, shame and hatred that Scarlet faces.
Director Joe Hufton has a strong history in immersive theatre, having worked with fringe favourites Belt Up Theatre Company and smash hit Secret Cinema. This background can only serve Scarlet well, as the voyeuristic nature of the subject matter will inevitably force a degree of audience complicity.
Scarlet, written by Royal Court Writers' Programme graduate Sam H. Freeman, has been created by Theatre Renegade in collaboration with The White Ribbon Campaign, a group who work with men to end violence towards women. Its tale of trial by social media is a horror story for the modern age, showing a woman become a spectator in her own life.
|What||Scarlet, Southwark Playhouse|
|Where||Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway, London, SE1 6BD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Borough (underground)|
15 Apr 15 – 09 May 15, 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM
|Website||Click here to book via Southwark Playhouse|