It feels important to say before we discuss a show about such a sensitive issue that its engagement with the topic of women being raped is sensitively handled and that the dancer is honest in her exploration. However, the work that has been created, whilst noble in what it tries to say, is not necessarily a well constructed piece of theatre.
‘Deserving?’ focuses on the question of women’s responsibility and role in the act of rape; the theme present throughout the whole piece is how much can the female party be blamed for the acts of a man who rapes her? This question is so prevalent and, in many ways, easy to answer, that the through-line of the show- a woman who seduces a man and is then sexually assaulted- is a foregone conclusion, which is untouched and left to reside in a field of silence and injustice. The show ends with the expected answer - that a woman is always a victim in cases of sexual assault. The piece might as well say that the Sun rises in the East.
The performance here is more about stamina and less about technique. But while other performers may risk pain in dangerous circumstances and dance in a way that suggests the hurt and damage of the body, the performer at the core of ‘Deserving?’ uses the idea of cruelty merely as a marathon of body slams on the floor. The dance is identifiable in its references to real movement, but even when it becomes an expression of pain it lacks any heightened sense of horror. In a moment so difficult to show on stage- especially in a one woman show- the lack of abstraction seems peculiar.
Although the emotion and intent is there, the piece lacks something of the necessary punch; too long a time is spent on every area (for example, the opening use of pop music) and as a result the emotion is diluted. However, if you ever doubted that a woman in this position was a victim, watch the way this piece concludes - it will convince you soon enough that this is a worthy war to fight.