Young Vic Theatre February-March 2017
Part sociological study, part group therapy, See Me Now is only in part a theatrical event, quite probably of more value to the participants than the observers.
Based on a series of interviews and workshops with sex workers (i.e., prostitutes), writer Molly Taylor and director Mimi Poskitt have assembled a collage of narratives and self-descriptions, frequently just one or two sentences long.
The cast consists of eleven present or former sex workers, sometimes playing themselves, sometimes composites of others not present, and there is no question that they find the experience liberating and empowering.
Unfortunately See Me Now doesn't have a whole lot to tell the audience that is new, the accounts of the speakers' professional activities or the insights into their emotional lives too rarely moving beyond the level of magazine articles and TV documentaries.
The strongest impression the performance is likely to give is of an odd sameness to the various stories While the speakers range from crack addict and trafficked immigrant to dominatrix and male escort, they begin after a while to blend together in a repeated pattern of self-contradiction and self-delusion.
This may be partly the product of Molly Taylor's arrangement of the material, but too repeatedly a figure will go from assertion of pride and informed choice to admission of weakness, fragility or mental illness.
And a few too many ultimately confess to dreams of romance and monogamy for the work to avoid the scent of sentimental fiction.
The performers themselves are, of course, not trained actors. But the occasional flubbed line or awkward movement aside, they handle themselves well onstage, as obviously energised as they are nervous, and you may be reminded that they are, after all, experienced at role-playing and assumed identities.
It is not these people's fault that their real life experiences play like textbook case studies or pop psychology cliches. But it makes for weak theatre and a very long ninety minutes with too little to say.
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Review - See Me Now - Young Vic Theatre 2017