Doug Will Do Theatre show Prettier Things feels almost at odds with itself from the outset, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It skillfully challenges the conventions of abusive relationships, but with almost too-jaded a perspective that has almost tipped the balance, being overly cynical, and really stripping away many of the themes it potentially had. As a sentence, that is really convoluted – but I’ll try my best to explain…
The performances from the featuring duo were profound and genuinely interesting; pushing you to feel involved, but not in a forced way. Maybe because they’re pretty relatable – two characters that view themselves as intelligent over reachers, doing things and surrounding themselves with people they deem beneath them. *Ahem*
It’s the dialogue, though, that edges those performances towards feeling forced and diluted – it can feel fairly on the nose at times, and it reads like pages might have been lifted directly from a millennial’s rewording of The Catcher In The Rye. I wholeheartedly appreciate the aims of doing this – the play is about confused and angst embossed 20-year-olds, so why not write it like the diary of either characters.
Unfortunately, because of this, the style in which the dialogue is formed slightly divorces the characters of having a real conversation. This seems odd to me considering the play is essentially a conversation about the forming of a relationship between an abuse victim and somebody with a history of abuse.
This aside, the subject matter is near perfect, and I feel like it seriously touches on the idea of the male gaze in the 21st century – where our relationships are chiselled by apps capitalizing on that concept. Not like the good old days is it… When you used to shout at a woman on the street until they gave in… back in the good old days.
I do like the thought process and the societal challenges it launches, in that it’s a nice insight into gender perspectives. But I do feel like this was enough. I think having the male character (Bus Boy) as an abusive and manipulative misogynist strips away the broader appeal and the potential to educate; “Women don’t like it when you stare at them on the bus” is a good take home message. “Woman don’t like it when you stare at them on the bus, and also you’re a dick” could lose touch with some male audiences; i.e. “I’m not a dick, so does this mean I can continue to stare at women on the bus?” No, it doesn’t, but the play almost creates the illusion that there could be a fine line. I’ll stop you there pal, there isn’t.
Leave my sister alone. **
It’s really encouraging to see a production company presenting a prevalent and current issue, amongst a festival built mostly of comedy, and I doff my cap towards Doug Will Do Theatre for leaping at something distinctive and current. I’m a firm believer in the idea that subject matter is everything, and the piece certainly has subject matter served in variety – including a heavy handed musical number that induced belly laughter from the audience – which I thoroughly enjoyed.
It’s a difficult time to produce a feminist piece that pokes holes in our concept of gender and relationships – we’re a quickly evolving society with some contrived and inappropriate viewpoints, mixed in with a bag of liberal and sensitive understandings – so to produce something that can inform and educate us all is something unachievable for most creatives.
I look forward to seeing more from Doug Will Do Theatre; giving substance to the melting pot of ill-informed gender-culture critics that we’ve all become, regardless of understanding or mental capability.
** Disclaimer: I don’t have a sister.