Sex Waitress catapults us forward to the year 2020, in which a dystopian London has emerged from female empowerment and consent campaigns, to a society in which misogynists and sex offenders- or ‘Keiths’- are shielded, and even promoted. They have infiltrated societal power positions, and have their own public events.
A glimpse into a future where sex, power and patriarchy have combined to create an anarchistic world in which misogyny and sex offenders are celebrated.
As a concept, I appreciate what the writer- Ellie Rowland-Callanan - is trying to achieve. As a feminist activist, I understand the point Rowland-Callanan is trying to make. However I don’t feel either is achieved through this production.
The performance begins with five mysterious characters on stage, taking us through the historical chronology which has seen society get to this place. We are then transported to an East London jail, where two activists are being held for protesting against this. For some bizarre reason, despite being in jail due to a protest against patriarchy and having recently split with her girlfriend, the character of Agnes decides she’s going to screw the prison guard. She is then taken aback by the raw and rough sex which ensues. As a sex-positive feminist, I appreciate what this scene was trying to achieve but it was performed clumsily and seemed to jar with the atmosphere and character development attempting to be created at such an early point in the performance.
Stereotypes abounded throughout, with all five central characters entering a commune where they indulged in homemade humous, threeways and placenta eating. Although I can appreciate the juxtaposition of the characters’ political aspirations and how this is reflected in the chaos of their personal lives, again I don’t think it was written or performed in a way which accentuated this aim. The audience were audibly uncomfortable as some scenes were incredibly over-acted, particularly the drunken musings of ‘Lila’; the bad sex and the birthing of the baby. I understood that I had not connected with any of these characters in any way whatsoever when I was completely unphased when one of them dies, and apathetic when a male character appropriated the female voices, a move which, as a feminist, ordinarily would have me seething. I appreciate the performance is categorised as comedy, which would perhaps account for the exaggerated acting. However, in dealing with such serious topics as anal rape and incest, it created discomfort.
The twist at the end, with the character development of Kirk, was interesting, and one can spy that Rowland-Callanan is highlighting a very realistic prospect for the future. It’s not so far removed from the present, after all, and this last scene shines a spotlight on this in quite an expert and natural way. This was the highlight of the performance for me, and if the rest of the show was written and performed in this style, perhaps it would be more relatable.
It can be forgiven that the majority of shows during preview week have a few wrinkles to iron out. However I’m not sure even botox could help this one. Steering away from stereotypes, tightening up the storyline and some refinement of the art would be a good start to elevating this performance.