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Lancaster University Theatre Group performed Not Safe For Work, Lucy Kirkwood’s 2012 comedic social commentary about the effect the media has on our lives, at the Dukes. Directed by Rosy Duncan, the play involved six cast members who were all consistently accomplished actors – I honestly don’t think another cast could have done as much justice to the play as they did.
Michael Dodds played Aiden, the editor of lads magazine ‘Doghouse’. Dodds was effective at switching the way he spoke to his staff – minimal respect for his male workers, but excessive consideration for his female staff member Charlotte. He also pulled off the bravado needed when his character pretended not to give a shit that a fourteen year old girl’s father was threatening legal action over his daughter’s breasts appearing in the magazine.
Guillermo Katz played said father. He was convincingly forthright at the start, and we could see his upset over the sexualisation of his little girl. Maybe a couple of accent slips, but his transition to becoming morally compromised (he accepts the £25K bribe offered to him which he initially rejects disgustedly) was very believable.
Charlotte is the female staff member at Doghouse, played by Aurelia Cage. Aurelia established Charlotte’s strong-mindedness from the beginning, but I don’t think her character was developed enough in the script. There was an interesting juxtaposition between Charlotte not minding working for Doghouse but telling her friends she worked for an estate agent – when Aiden found her a job he thought she’d be happier in, I didn’t feel like I understood why she didn’t want it.
Luke McDonell played Rupert, the most vocal employee about job dissatisfaction. You wouldn’t have been able to tell this was Luke’s first LUTG show – he matched (and often exceeded) the energy levels of the rest of the cast. Although the play was consistently funny throughout, Luke did provide a hefty proportion of the comedy, a particular highlight being his botoxed face when he starts working for ‘Electra’ magazine and they give him a range of tasks for the ‘what it’s like being a woman’ feature.
This was under instruction of Miranda, editor of Electra and the biggest hypocrite on the planet. The role could have been written for Alicia Holdsworth, who managed to create a larger-than-life caricature that not only made us question our social constructs, but was also just bloody hilarious. Alicia produced some huge laughs from lines that I don’t even think were written to be funny. She changed on stage into a suffragette costume, for a poignant ending with a ‘vote for women’ banner round her shoulder as she teaches Sam how to find flaws in perfect women.
And Sam? Despite working for Doghouse, this is the most idealist man you will ever meet. Liam Wells was convincing when he expressed his plans for proposal and his struggles to find a job. We can see how easily he is sucked into this corrupt world, and the weight that falls on his shoulders when he realises he chose a fourteen year old girl’s breasts as the highlight out of thousands of entries. Sam represents the optimist in all of us who wants us to be “better versions of ourselves.” Ergo, I kind of hated it when he gave in to Miranda and admitted there was a flaw in his girlfriend’s body.
The cast for me were the best part of NSFW. While I thought it had a strong start (the ‘we printed an underage girl’s boobs’ reveal had the potential to start an intense escalation of things going wrong), the play actually felt quite slow as it progressed. Particularly both two-handed scenes which, while performed well, dragged as they laboured over the same points – this was time that more things could have happened, or we could have at least developed some of the other characters, like Charlotte and Rupert, a bit more. The social commentary could have been taken further and ventured into new areas had the story been pushed beyond the snapshot which we were given. But great work LUTG for bringing that snapshot to life.