Edinburgh Fringe 2016: Blush Q&A

speaks to Blush director, Edward Stambollouian, about his production of Charlotte Josephine’s play

BLUSH 2016 353x500 What was it that interested you about Charlotte Josephine’s work?
Charlie is a badass. Her writing is fierce, politically charged, poetic and often wicked funny. She has a lot to say and she isn’t afraid to say it. She wants to get her audience thinking; she wants to make them angry; her plays are a call to arms. Her plays buzz with vitality and theatricality. They’re challenging but damn good fun…

Revenge pornography has only recently been made a specific offence in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. That said, revenge pornography itself is a fairly recent, albeit an abhorrent and cruel crime, in our digital age of smartphones and social media. Were you prepared for what you found once you started researching the show?
I had no idea how big the problem was. Charlie, Dan and I did a lot of research, especially during our R&D period and we were shocked at the scale of the industry. What’s equally shocking is how inadequate the law is in dealing with revenge porn. Currently you can only be prosecuted if you share images with intent to cause harm which produces a massively grey area. Those who share images for amusement or financial gain are not considered to be breaking the law. This seems bonkers. But it’s a new law for a new crime and it’s taking time to get it right.

Blush deals with a whole host of pretty hefty issues – from what constitutes ‘a slut’, to the implications of falling victim to revenge pornography, with the concept of shame at its heart. How has directing Blush compared with your other recent projects?
Well the last thing I directed was the UK and US tour of Youtube duo Dan and Phil…so you couldn’t really get more different! Actually there were a few similarities to the process. A lot of dramaturgy for a start. Charlie continued to work on the script through rehearsals and is still working on it even now we’re here in Edinburgh! So a lot of my time has been focused on developing the script. As a young director with a special interest in new writing I spend a lot of my time working with writers and scripts. Charlie has been a total joy to work with. She’s a real collaborator, always open and never precious.

Talk us through the characters in Blush: is there a protagonist and adversary to look out for or is it more complicated than that?
Blush follows five separate characters through their own experiences of shame, revenge and sexuality. Charlie plays three women and Dan plays two men. It’s a real challenge as the play jumps between the different storylines rapidly and randomly, often between two lines of dialogue. I think each member of the audience will find themselves drawn to a different character; will connect in some way with their struggle, with their understanding of sex and sexuality.

Is the way in which sex education is taught in schools in need of a complete overhaul? In your opinion, is education the best way to combat the issues explored in Blush, be it misconstrued ideas of gender-related responsibility or social shame?
During rehearsals we watched the Channel 4 documentary Sex in Class in which, Goedele Liekens (a Belgian sexologist) tried to introduce her own brand of sex education to teenagers in a Lancashire school. Somewhat predictably the stuffy parents and school governors didn’t get on board. But perhaps most surprising and shocking were the teenagers’ attitudes to sex. Young boys who thought that ejaculating on girls’ faces was a rite of passage, a symbol of empowerment and manliness. Girls who were afraid to talk up about their rights and opinions in a sexual relationship. Our country’s sex education system is no longer adequate for a generation of young people growing up with constant access to the internet (the good, the bad and the very very ugly of it).

What sets Blush apart from the thousands of other shows at this year’s festival?
Value for money…it’s five shows in one! Charlie has written five fascinating characters and BLUSH mashes them together in an exciting, action packed hour. Not to mention our brilliant creative team (design by James Turner, sound by Harry Blake, lighting by Seth Rook Williams and movement by Polly Bennett). For lovers of Charlie’s last play (Bitch Boxer) this is a must see, and for those that haven’t seen her work before this an opportunity to catch a brilliant young voice with a lot to say!

Blush will be performed at Underbelly Cowgate between the 4th and 28th August

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