Camden People’s Theatre, London – until 11 May 2017
Some questions for women:
Is it ok to want to be fucked?
Does wanting this oppose feminism?
Is it ok to want to be hit in bed? Will this man expect that from other women?
Is it ok to fantasise about being raped? What does this mean if I’ve been raped?
Louise Orwin is asking big questions about female sexuality and desire, but she doesn’t have the answers. There are no definitive answers anyway, just individual experiences. To make Oh Yes Oh No, she interviewed dozens of women around the country and found some disturbing patterns – about 90% of the women she met had been raped. Many of them developed rape fantasies. Women struggled to reconcile their feminism with wanting men to dominate them in bed.
Following on from A Girl and a Gun, a study in the sexualised presentation of female violence, live artist Orwin continues her work with this piece on consent, sexuality and female desire. Using the same impressively complex, layered approach that faces big ideas head on, Oh Yes Oh No is an uncomfortable, confrontational and paradoxical (reflected in the title) work that feels like it is still being developed. However, this doesn’t negate the importance and honesty of the piece.
A tiny platform becomes a second stage and safe space where Barbie, Ken and their friends get it on. But Orwin needs help, so she recruits an audience member to help puppet the figures. The audience member is provided with a simple script before beginning wherein she gives her consent, but it’s not genuine. In reading from the cards that Orwin gives her, Orwin manipulates her into giving consent and uses guilt to prevent her from backing out. It’s a situation most women will know too well, and an intelligent use of metaphor.
In addition to the Barbie sequences, Orwin uses a range of styles across the rest of the scenes. The variety holds interest as well as provide new angles on related issues. There are monologues distorted into a hyper-feminised voice that disturb are something out of a horror film where a woman is raped and murdered, simple dance sequences accompanied by subtitles about fucking and being fucked, and sections of voiceover excerpts from her interviews. It’s these faceless accounts that are the most harrowing.
The throughline isn’t as clear as it could be, and there are a couple of moments of prolonged stillness/little movement that don’t add much. The use of camera live feeds creates additional spaces, but these aren’t fully integrated with each other. Some of the transitions are rather abrupt, and the piece as a whole needs a bit more polish.
Though there are a few shortcomings in the work, it’s still vital to address these issues on stage. The complexity of female sexuality has been kept in private or swept under the rug for too long and Oh Yes Oh No smashes that silence with a roar. Even though there is no answer to the questions Orwin poses, putting out there for consideration is a huge leap for female empowerment.