Review: NSFW

Short but witty, NSFW opens important dialogues about the journalism industry. reviews

Image: Carrie Morrison

Image: Carrie Morrison

Venue: The Drama Barn

★★★☆☆

Punchy, bold and certainly not afraid to make a statement, Lucy Kirkwood’s NSFW is an eye-opening glimpse into the gender politics and power dynamics that govern the ruthless journalism industry. Though short in length, Kirkwood’s focussed message, while punctuated with witty humour, was conveyed brilliantly by the distinct personalities she created.

In a play heavily dependent on the characters and pacing to raise thought-provoking issues, Rupert, played by Marcus Crabb, immediately set the standard with his brilliantly sensitive comic timing. Even in the second act when he was effectively mute with a botox session gone wrong and battling high heels, Crabb’s superb physicality was carried consistently throughout the play. Charlotte, played by Hattie Patten-Chatfield, also managed to give a convincing performance with her beautifully nuanced confession revealing the frustration and anxiety felt by aspiring journalists faced with unpaid internships as a means of entering the occasionally treacherous industry.

George Rayson who played the editor of Doghouse Magazine the lad’s mag Aidan and Hector MacDuff playing Mr Bradshaw whose underaged daughter was featured in Doghouse Magazine, on the other hand, were stiff and did not have the intuitive timing and sensitivity that Crabb and Patten-Chatfield possessed. While MacDuff made up for a lack of vulnerability by exhibiting a more interesting dimension to the character when he taunted Aidan, Rayson never quite filled the role of Kirkwood’s complex character. His slightly awkward physicality, especially during tense scenes, exacerbated the lack of dynamic range his character required. The slippery editor was full of potential – sleazy, manipulative and devoid of empathy depending on who he speaks to, but because the emotional shifts were not distinct enough, the shades of Aidan’s personality were unfortunately lost.

However, the play’s second half proved that it’s not how you start but how you finish that matters. George Abbott and Ellie Ward who played Sam and Miranda had wonderful chemistry. Abbott’s understated natural acting might have initially seemed unbalanced against Ward’s larger-than-life persona, but his subtlety was the perfect foil to the flamboyant and comically colourful Ward. The nerdy but quiet confidence of Sam plays perfectly against the charming but superficial Miranda, particularly when he schools her in her references to Great Expectations. Ward’s refreshing performance pulls off Kirkwood’s biting humour exceptionally, combating Sam’s politically correct concerns about body shaming by replying with simpering wit, “Sorry, lovely, but does this look like the Guardian?”

Preying on women’s insecurities while professing to do so in the name of relating to women, Miranda convincingly represents the hypocrisies of women’s publications like the fictitious Electra Magazine, no better than its titty-lating counterpart in the preceding act. The staging, though limited when transitioning from the masculine Doghouse office to the tastefully designed Electra office, actually strengthened the symbolic juxtaposition of the two acts. The boob-bearing poster of the ‘Local Lovely’ competition winner in the first is replaced with a cluttered fashion mood board in the second, and despite the minimal set, the subtle use of props such as switching the phallic-shaped mug for one that says “I heart Daddy” in anticipation for Mr Bradshaw’s visit was clever.

Although the play might have had a slow first act, it certainly picks up in the second and the masterful parallelism of its structure powerfully communicates the theme of privilege in both gender and socio-economical position. The Drama Barn’s latest offering may not be safe for work, but it starts an important dialogue, and that alone makes it worth seeing.

3 comments

  1. 30 Jan ’16 at 6:03 pm

    Rose Barslund

    Hello! Just a small correction: the playwright is called Lucy Kirkwood, not Kirkson.

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  2. I thought the guy playing the doghouse editor did a bloody good job !! Made me both laugh and squirm and completely nailed the sleazy journo thing

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