White Bear Theatre, London
Originally written as a monologue by Amelia Marshall Lovsey, Walk of Shame has been expanded into a hard-hitting two-hander with the addition of an alternative point of view, written by Stephanie Silver. We now have two perspectives on one night – and while on a purely factual basis the accounts may coincide, there’s a fundamental difference in how each character feels about the outcome and the events that precede it.
Alice likes sex, drinking, and wearing tight shorts to show off her figure. She’s in a relationship, but feels unsatisfied and unappreciated – and after a row with her boyfriend, she heads out for a drunken night, with one very particular goal in mind. Liam is a nice guy who spent most of his teenage years caring for his sick mum, before moving to London and getting a job in the City. He’s having a heavy night out with the guys from work when he finds himself alone in a bar and runs into Alice.
If you had absolutely no context and had to decide based solely on first impressions who to believe about the way the rest of the evening unfolds, there’d probably be little doubt. Alice – played by co-writer Silver – is a deliberately abrasive character who does what many people would consider all the “wrong” things, not just on that one night but in general. Calum Speed’s sharply dressed Liam, on the other hand, is at great pains from the start to convince us he’s a good guy – and the truth is that he probably is, under normal circumstances. But even when it’s revealed that his night out involves taking copious amounts of cocaine, nobody stops him – as they do Alice – to warn him that he “needs to be careful”. Infuriatingly, and as is so often the case, it’s generally accepted that the woman should be the one taking precautions to defend herself, with the man absolved of any responsibility.
At just over 30 minutes, the thought-provoking play, directed by Michelle Payne, certainly makes an impact, and the pivotal scene is played very powerfully, in almost total darkness, by both actors. The very short run time could, perhaps, be seen as an opportunity to expand the play and explore in more detail what happens in the immediate aftermath, what action each character chooses to take, and the reaction they face – particularly since the play’s title seems to suggest the story is more about the morning after than the night before.
As it stands, though, the play is already a very topical and important piece from Glass Half Full Theatre, which makes us all pause and question society’s – and our own – assumptions and judgments whenever a story like this makes the headlines. The company are hoping to take the show on tour to universities in the future and start a crucial conversation about issues of consent and drink and drugs. Hopefully it’ll also encourage its student audiences (and beyond) to consider the uneven distribution of responsibility between men and women; depressing though it may be, it’s clear that’s a lesson which is still desperately needed.