The Game – Project Arts Centre – Review – DTF

The Game - credit Fiona Morgan 800x400

The Game – Project Arts Centre – Review by Cormac Fitzgerald

Dates: Oct 7 – 11

Prostitution, we’re told in The Game, is the oldest profession in the world. And for as long as society has existed, women’s bodies have been sold for a chance at the prize of a decent living. But it turns out that the game is rigged. Driven underground and with no clear rules, acts of violence and misogyny are often the rewards for those who play. As THEATREclub’s Gemma Collins asks: “If it’s a game, what are the stakes?”

The Game is an attempt to rewrite the rules. While prostitution is its main subject, Collins and Lauren Larkin state a more generalised aim: their wish to redress society’s inherent misogyny. THEATREclub, of course, are no strangers to taking social issues for inspiration and in this outing, Collins and Larkin convey the stories of former sex workers with whom the pair collaborated to make the piece. Taking the form of a game-show, the performance sees the two act as both hosts and players. Male volunteers are invited to help them re-enact the real situations once faced by their collaborators and as they perform a long series of imaginary sex acts, we’re constantly reminded of the theatrical game being played by Collins and Larkin: “This is not happening to me, but it did happen”. The stakes are raised as the re-enactments become more sinister, and reality soon supplants the notion that what we’re watching is just an illusion and the results are a highly distressing an disturbing piece of theatre.

There are some incredible performances throughout. The re-enactments by Collins and Larkin are as brave as their conviction is admirable, and they do huge justice to the women whose stories they are telling. Credit is also due to the male volunteers who perform without any hitches, despite growing noticeably more apprehensive about what they’re asked to do as the piece progresses.

However, it’s unfortunate that The Game’s self-stated aim to redress misogyny ultimately falls short of its goal, with its thesis fundamentally a flawed one. By adopting sex work as an analogy for the wider problem of misogyny, the implication is that society’s failure towards the show’s collaborators is representative of wider societal attitudes. However, the problem with such thinking is that it fails to account for issues such as the day-to-day sexism to which all women are frequently subjected. Indeed, the use of male volunteers – and asking them for their own opinions – is something to be applauded, not least for the message it sends out about opening a dialogue instead of simply preaching about the issue.

But by telling us in no uncertain terms that misogyny is a male issue, the play ignores the overall failings of a society that allows women be reduced to sexual products. That’s before accounting for the implicit bias held by countless women who themselves perpetuate misogynistic attitudes. Misogyny, sadly, is much more deeply-rooted than society’s failure to protect women who sell themselves for sex. By conflating gender and society, the show muddies the waters with the result that an assortment of issues become distilled and re-packaged as a binary one.

None of which detracts from the fact that The Game is still a captivating and highly informative piece about sex work in Ireland. It is well-structured, treating its subject with enough caution so as not to postulate and allowing the audience to come away with their own conclusions. Perhaps most importantly, in challenging preconceptions about the fairness of existing social structures, it makes the audience actually want to do something, a resounding success in and of itself.

The Game – Dates: Oct 7 – 11

Tickets: €10 – €20

Duration: 70 minutes

Venue: Project Arts Centre

Categories: Header, Theatre, Theatre Review

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