Review: Wtf did we just watch?

Spoiler alert: the end completely changes the tone of the entire show, and could put many people off 

I’ll admit it: I’m confused.
Last night we innocently went to see a comedy musical as part of the Camden Fringe. Little did we know that we would leave the show feeling entirely perplexed and quite disturbed. I have spent the entire morning reading reviews of said show, but there are so many contradictory angles that they have just contributed to my bewilderment.

Grab ‘Em by the Pussy is described as a ‘sassy surreal comedy musical about grabbing pussy.’ So far, so expected. I had assumed we would witness a light hearted show reflecting on women in society and the social pressures we are under, as well as the undeniable daily sexual harassment most girls have experienced since the age of thirteen, which is now embodied by none other than the US President. However, what we were met with was far more twisted and much less straight forward. (Although it must be said that Dina expected it to be a satirical political piece about Donald Trump, so at least I was a bit more prepared than she.)

The night began with a strange introduction to the venue. We caught the show at The Monkey House on Seven Sisters where we were told they have a ‘no shoe policy’ so we had to remove our shoes and help ourselves to some pretty disgusting slippers. Considering I was wearing Timberlands which are famously tricky to get on and off, this was an odd start.

The protagonist of the show is Maisie, played by Alice Wolff-Whitehouse. Many reviews have described the character as relatable, and successfully encapsulating the confusion many of women feel about how to conduct themselves sexually. In the first 20 minutes or so, I’d agree. Maisie struggles with knowing how to dance in the club without seeming too keen saying ‘sometimes the beat takes over my soul’. She wants guys to be interested but doesn’t know how to seem aloof whilst also attractive. She feels jealous when her friends are getting more action than her. I’d say most of these things girls can relate to at some stage of their lives. I also felt the show was empowered at this stage. It’s not often that women’s sexuality is explored in this way, with songs such as ‘No One Will Let Me Blow Them.’ Not only this, but the inclusion of socially awkward Ian (loveably and believably played by Alasdair Melrose) further challenged the stereotype that men are always more sexually driven than women.

But then the show progressed into darker themes. Maisie doesn’t just want attention from men, she wants them to ‘touch me when I don’t want to be touched.’ Hmm.

The show was definitely funny at points. I laughed out loud throughout Melrose’s desperate attempt to prove his manly credentials with his rendition of 'I Can Carry Heavy Objects Long Distances Without Needing a Rest.' The less-than-subtle cat themed ‘Grab ‘Em by the Meow’ was also a highlight with lines such as ‘cat burglary.’ Overall, the music by Josh Wells was genius. The cast were amazing at fully committing to their roles, with Wolff-Whitehouse throwing herself across the stage as erratic Maisie, and Rachel Loughran embodying Roxanne and then (oddly) a Scottish army general.

Yet the cast were let down by the strange plot twists. No one seemed to understand the inclusion of the army, and all jokes relating to this thus fell flat. There was also the surreal element of Maisie standing up and slow motion dancing in between each scene. And finally, there was the last scene.

 I had not intended to reveal the end of the plot, but, as it completely changes the tone of the entire show, and could put many people off from seeing it, I think it’s relevant. So here goes, spoiler alert. (In fact, it's probably best to put a trigger warning here too.) 

The end of the show sees Maisie attempt to rape Ian. Pulling at his trousers whilst he protests pitifully she says ‘don’t worry, you’ll like it.’ As if this isn’t disturbing enough, he then rolls on top of her, pushes her face down on the stage and proceeds to rape her instead. The show concludes with Maisie lying flat on the floor whilst Ian walks off. The audience sat in total silence for at least a minute, unsure whether to clap.

Needless to say, Dina and I both walked out of The Monkey House and simultaneously said ‘WTF did we just watch?’

As I said, I have since read many reviews trying to uncover what the aim of this show was. Many have reviewed it as surreal humour, reflecting on women in society.
One review, by Samuel Smith, described it as ‘exploring a dystopian world where women have lost all autonomy over their sexual rights and consent.’

 It’s an interesting angle, but I don’t think it’s actually true, not least because Caroline Buckley, the writer, has not described it as such. Instead she said to The Space For a long time it was just one song about a girl who is desperate to be sexually assaulted. I was inspired by the bizarre concept that girls are asking for it and should take unwelcomed ‘attention’ as a compliment.’ This comment has also left me baffled. Does that mean the entire show is ironic? Are we supposed to laugh at the final rape scene?

Finally I will leave you with a line from the Camden Fringe synopsis: ‘One thing is for sure it will be an hour of random fun!’ Is rape on stage ever random fun?

 Grab 'Em By The Pussy is showing until the 12th August at The Monkey House 

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