Also published on A Younger Theatre.
The opening is punchy, the dialogue sharp. Charlotte Josephine and Daniel Foxsmith jump right in – tales of revenge porn and teenage sex education fly out the gates. Josephine’s writing is quick to climax, but like a trained professional it comes, subsides and builds up again for another round. Edward Stambollouian’s vision is clear – Blush is the intention, for character and audience alike.
YouTube clips and dick pics; fading away and flying high; all relatable references to the millennials. A number of characters swiftly emerge, merge and disperse. There’s the guy who had kids young and still thinks he’s a lad, wanking to porn while his wife is asleep. There’s the London girl who feels like no one can see her, until she succumbs to sharing naked pictures online and realises that now everyone can see too much. There’s the big sister who couldn’t spare her teenage sibling the horror of having a sex video posted online. Narratives collide and collate – Josephine deftly avoids names, so each story is simultaneously separate and linked. The effect is the same, the logic unimportant.
If someone tells us we look good, is that the same as feeling good? Is revenge porn as bad as rape, digital eyes drinking you in? Can you wank over pornstars in schoolgirl costumes one minute and ask your teenage daughter about her first sex education lesson the next? If a behaviour leads to a good feeling, we are pre-programmed to repeat it – Foxsmith’s successful start-up businessman tells us that in a lecture, eloquently educating young minds before picking them out as prey.
Josephine and Foxsmith submerse themselves in the world – sweaty and panting and breathless by the end, Stambollouian relentlessly drives them onward to the climax. They are flushed – it’s intoxicating and exhausting to watch. The lights flash; the transitions are fluid; one character morphs into the other with effortless grace. Each moment eggs on the next – snap, flash and validate; strip, approve and love; rush, burn and perish.
Blush is a fast-paced show and yet varies its dynamic in an instant. One minute it explodes with white hot anger, the next it recedes with an onslaught of shame and disgust. Josephine’s writing highlights the power of the mob, the danger of anonymity, the ultimate domination and destruction from the shadows. It’s brutal. It’s fucked. But then, we learn to fuck before we learn to be touched.
In the end, Josephine and Foxsmith stand in the dimness – Seth Rook Williams uses diffused light from photographic softboxes to highlight the immediacy of a harsh flash. All that’s left are questions – where do we go from here? What do we do now? Neither Josephine’s writing nor Stambollouian’s vision have the answers, but the questions that it spits out are relevant, powerful and perfectly phrased. Everyone blushes because no one fucking knows anymore.
Director: Edward Stambollouian
Producer: Jake Orr
Writer: Charlotte Josephine
Choreographer: Polly Bennett
Design: James Turner; Harry Blake (sound); Seth Rook Williams (lighting); Holly Rose Henshaw (costume)
Cast: Charlotte Josephine; Daniel Foxsmith
Images courtesy of The Other Richard
Blush plays Soho Theatre until 3 June. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.