Alan Bissett is the writer and performer of Ban This Filth!, whose content tackles the issues of contemporary feminism so recently receiving the national spotlight, and asking questions on pornography, sex, censorship and empathy from either side of the gender divide.
Bissett begins by detailing his relationship with women, and their prominence in shaping his career as both a theatre-maker and as a successful author (Bissett has published four novels in addition to his performance work). The show frequently returns to his youth, detailing his first kiss, the extreme and comedic methods he took to attract the opposite sex as a teenager, and his unearthing of internet pornography whilst at university. These anecdotes are amusing and humorous, with Bissett being bright and confident as he recounts a past that will be familiar to most. Unfortunately, whilst largely brilliant, such anecdotes of the everyday can sometime prove to the detriment of Ban This Filth!, as familiarity falls into the inane, despite Bissett being a down-to-earth and erudite performer.
Throughout the performance, Bissett draws on the writing of radical feminist Andrea Dworkin. Dworkin had a firm belief that pornography constituted an act of violence against women and was strongly linked to rape and sexual aggression in males. Repeatedly, Bissett walks stage-left and stands behind a podium to read from a testimony Dworkin gave before an Attorney General on the subject in 1986. Performing the visceral, explicit words of Dworkin in character, Bissett captures the attention of his audience through raw emotion. The speech proves an effective and arresting counterpoint to Bissett’s own ideas on feminism, which are always elegantly expressed.
Bissett is clearly a man who knows how to tell a story, employing a succinct, intelligent and engaging approach. Ban This Filth! reaches a climax when Bissett questions his own perspective as a male feminist. Here he combines humour with hard-hitting and visceral feminist opinions which neither agree with his own initial arguments, nor the philosophy of Andrea Dworkin. It forces the audience to reassess its own relationship with pornography and ongoing feminist debate. These questions are important, and Bissett expresses them with a sharp and witty intellect.