Last night I went to a relaxed performance of Louise Orwin’s ‘Oh Yes Oh No’ at the Battersea Arts Centre. My expectations were high as I’d just seen the announcement on Twitter that it has been nominated in the Best Performance Piece category by the Offies. I was not disappointed.
‘Oh Yes oh No’ sparkles with an irreverent and knowing energy that tilts and plays with our perspectives on sexual desire and the impact of rape culture. This is not a bare bones analysis of an issue that has a ripple effect across most people in the modern world. It is a quirky, engaging and subversive take on the subject. Louise Orwin fuses a playful (there are dolls) approach to talking about sexual fantasy and desire, with extracts from real life interviews with women who talk about their own experiences of rape and their conflicted feelings about having violent sexual fantasies. Impulses we’ve been trained to have, but taught to be ashamed of.
‘Oh Yes Oh No’ stimulates thought about where these desires come from. Are they inherently human, or is this the result of a culture that tells women that men want to defile them, while increasingly young people are exposed to pornography in which a woman’s face is contorted in pain. Given this normalisation and fetishisation of rape and sexual violence, do we even know what our true desires are?
‘Oh Yes Oh No’ does not try to provide answers, but it does provoke valid questions we should be asking ourselves. Despite the subject matter Louise Orwin’s ‘fantasy space’ is strangely reassuring, as instead of being gratuitously confronting, she teases us into thinking ever more deeply about desire, shame and sex. How much of what we think about our sexual selves in a result of social conditioning? What are we going to do about it?
Well that is up to us, and I’m grateful for women like Louise Orwin who are putting themselves out there to spark healthy debate about the subject, because where we are now is far from healthy.
Inventive uses of lighting, sound and set design enhance a captivating performance by Louise Orwin. Alex Fernandes (light), Alicia Turner (sound) and Kat Heath (set) have done a wonderful job in building the world of the show, and translating Louise Orwin’s vision into something tangible. The use of subtitling throughout the performance, was particularly clever. The act of reading the words provided a strange sort of safety blanket for me in the audience. This resulted in a show that moved me and inspired me, without resorting to unnecessarily triggering me. Yes, this is arguably a dark and surreal show, but there is a warmth to it that stops it being a brutal or traumatic experience. It provokes without being aggressive.
‘Oh Yes Oh No’ runs at the Battersea Arts Centre until 23rd November, so you have until this Saturday to catch this thought-provoking show. Go on, give your brains a work out, Louise Orwin will take good care of you.