I really wanted to like this show. I wanted to be able to champion its feminist message. I wanted to leave the theatre thinking hard about gender and society and ready to change the world. As it happened, I left the theatre unmoved and thinking about the show’s gratuitous karaoke.
The format is very loosely that of a gameshow or TV interview, in which a woman trying to tell her story about working in a foot fetish club (no, I don’t know why they focused on feet either) is subjected to humiliating games, jokes and dances every time she attempts to say anything. At first, there are some mildly interesting sections, such as a makeover show in which the audience themselves are filmed and zoomed in on, giving a sense of the discomfort that comes with your appearance being scrutinised. In a sequence which is at times shocking and illuminating, a series of increasingly vile rape jokes are told by smiling presenters, but when the same jokes start being repeated, it quickly became tired.
As the show goes on, anything interesting said is interrupted with a badly shouted version of one club tune or another. Seriously, there’s a lot of karaoke. I think the audience might have been meant to divine some misogynist material in the lyrics, but it isn’t easy when the actors were bellowing like Saturday-night revellers. All this singing might have been easier to sit through if it had only happened once or twice, but I found my heart sinking every time someone picked up a microphone.
Instead of addressing its subject matter in a thoughtful way, confronting dilemmas and engaging with difficulties, The Fanny Hill Project bulldozes its audience with the same message over and over again, in less and less exciting ways. While its politics are admirable - and an appeal at the end for the Edinburgh Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre made me sympathise with them even more - as a theatrical experience it doesn’t have much of value to offer.