Trigger warning: this performance and review of Walk of Shame contains references to sexual assault and drug misuse.
As part of [email protected]’s Season 2 line-up, Walk of Shame is a brilliantly thought-provoking, hard-hitting piece on the importance of sexual consent. Written by Stephanie Silver and Amelia Lovsey, and directed by Michelle Payne, the performance also offers a relevant lesson on the dangers of alcohol and drug misuse.
Performed as two separate monologues that break the fourth wall, the play tells the tale of Alice, who leaves her boyfriend in an apartment following an argument, desperately and needing to get “fucked” in a bar. This is where she meets Liam who, seemingly a nice guy, has spent most of his childhood caring for his sick mum before moving to London and getting a job in the city. Much like Alice, he’s having a heavy night out with his friends, both of them having fun until things take a turn for the worse.
Glass Half Full Theatre’s Walk of Shame primarily stands out for its portrayal of its developed and nuanced characters. Beginning with Alice’s perspective, Stephanie Silver does a brilliant job in bringing to life the confidence and deliberately abrasive personality of her character. She’s gripping in her hedonistic attitude, and yet she also offers a sensitivity that you wouldn’t expect. It was refreshing to see Alice break the stereotype of women as repressed in their feelings; she is seen as confident in her sexuality, offering an empowering representation of a woman who owns her desires and needs. In direct contrast, Sam Landon’s Liam is a much more subdued and quiet man, coming alive through the consumption of alcohol and drugs. Although the piece, for me, is very much all about Alice, it was shockingly realistic and authentic how, in telling his story directly to the audience, he is able to win over our sympathy and empathy.
Walk of Shame also deserves praise for its representation of the male and female perspective of sexual consent. It’s pivotal rape scene details the important issue of the uneven distribution of responsibility between men and women when it comes to sexual abuse. Alice utters “I owe him, don’t I?”, which left my heart broken in two. Given the format of the piece, the audience are not privy to actually seeing the action take place. However, this does not make the tale any less convincing as the focus lays with the facial expressions of Landon and Silver. Contrasting the pain in Silver’s eyes with the confidence of Landon, the audience become fully immersed in this traumatic event. The format also allows for an accurate and interesting representation of the ‘his word vs. her word’ strategy that is continuously used in criminal courts concerning sexual abuse.
The lack of action thus places the importance on the dialogue, and Walk of Shame is thoroughly aware of this. Every line is delivered with desperation and power. Given the short length of the performance – only 20 minutes – you feel surprisingly attached to these characters, which is only thanks to the writing. Where the dialogue thrives the most, however, is in its witty humour. I absolutely loved the comic take on Alice’s relationship with her boyfriend through the metaphor of the Birdseye fish and chips, and the contamination of mayo and ketchup. Providing the much-needed light-hearted relief without losing the serious gravity of the situation, it’s impossible not to take your eyes off the screen.
However, this piece is not without its faults. For example, the hap-hazard effects placed over the top of the dialogue (alongside the constant zooming in and out of the camera) made the performance disorientating and sadly unprofessional at times, distracting from the serious message it wishes to give to viewers. I was also very disappointed with the ending; I wish it had dedicated time and space to explore what happened in the immediate aftermath. What action did each character choose to take; does Liam ever admit to it being rape? The title suggests an exploration of the woman afterwards, but Walk of Shame’s actual content is about the night before, thus opening up audience expectations for the following psychological or physical trauma of sexual assault that doesn’t actually play out in the content.
Overall, Walk of Shame is powerful in its representation of the importance of sexual consent and the dangers of alcohol and drug misuse and it is impossible not to become invested in these characters’ tales. Reminiscent of something you would be shown in sex education class, it is relevant, important and a definite must-see for all.
Words by Lucy Lillystone.
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