Home » Reviews » NSFW, Royal Court

NSFW, Royal Court

Lucy Kirkwood
Directed by Simon Godwin
★★★★★

Pros: Fantastically funny and flawlessly acted by a brilliant cast – a really entertaining production. Plenty of depth in the themes explored and lots of things to think and talk about afterwards.

Cons: It is only 80 minutes long with no interval, but it’s so good that I wanted a second act!

Our Verdict: This play is like a page-turner book you just can’t put down. It’s like the witty conversation on the media that you wish you had participated in. There are only day seats left but this play is certainly worth the effort.

Courtesy of Tristram Kenton for The Guardian

Wow! I loved this play for so many reasons it’s hard to know where to start. It has been quite some time since I have sat in an audience and truly believed what I was watching: the plot, the characters, the acting, the dialogue – this play is entirely credible from start to finish. It’s really funny, the kind of wit and intelligent humour that evokes gasps, laughs and cringes all at the same time. I was squealing, giggling and belly laughing throughout. It has got a fantastic pace, really punchy and fast flowing without feeling racy or exhausting. The dialogue is wonderfully constructed between characters that are so genuinely believable they make you feel like perhaps you have met them before. The cast deliver fantastic, flawless performances all round; they really embody the characters and bring utter plausibility to the drama. The set lends itself perfectly to the atmosphere you would expect from the two contrasting locations that the action takes place in. I was riveted, mesmerised even – this play is like that page-turner book that you just can’t put down.

The fact that it is entertaining does not mean that it is lighthearted. Underlying the wit and humour is a discourse on some serious and very relevant themes: the portrayal of women in the media and who is responsible for perpetuating it, selling out on scruples, using others to earn a living and further your career, manipulation, power, sexism, ageism, this play has got a lot going on and it gets across the clear and pertinent schism between what is morally right and what sells magazines. It is like the conversation you always wanted to have on this subject, clever and to the point without being moralistic or chimerical.

The play takes the audience inside the offices of two very different publications. The first is a men’s magazine, ‘Doghouse’. The characters here are fantastic. The Editor is the sleazy, power mongering, double talking Aidan (Julian Barratt) in charge of his small team, a sardonic, highly intelligent closet feminist, Charlotte (Esther Smith), the testosterone driven, nepotistic trust funder, Rupert (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) and the soft-hearted, moralistic Sam (Sacha Dhawan). Sam has chosen the winner of the readers’ topless photo competition, and her breasts have hit the shelves when they discover all too late that the model is fourteen and knew nothing about her boyfriend’s submission. Her litigious father, Mr Bradshaw (Kevin Doyle) takes on the manipulative and power wielding Aidan, and their exchange is so emphatically convincing that I wanted to step in and arbitrate!

The drama then moves through a wonderful set change to the offices of ‘Electra’, a high end glossy women’s magazine run by the stunningly polished Miranda (Janie Dee). Sam has come looking for a job, and finds himself being subjected to an interrogation which gets to the bottom of the deepest recesses of his attitude toward women. Miranda is prima facie the antithesis of Aidan, however, as her interview with Sam moves on, we see that the monster within is not so very different. This character is so complex, strong, powerful, vulnerable, manipulative, frightened, one moment with puddle-like depth of feeling the next a quagmire of disturbing undercurrents. Dee is wonderful in this role, persecutory and poignant with equal finesse.

NSFW is an acronym for ‘not suitable for work’ a reference to the type of material your employer wouldn’t appreciate you looking at in the workplace. Whilst it is never mentioned directly, there are so many layers to this term referenced in this play – are the publications unsuitable for a politically correct future? Are the young journalists suitable for any kind of employment? Are the protagonists, Aidan and Miranda, suitable to lead organisations which shape young adults’ views on women? It is a fantastic title, for a fantastic play. There are only day seats left, but this is worth the effort; a play with this much thought provoking, entertaining credibility doesn’t come along every day.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

NSFW runs at the Royal Court until 24th November 2012.
Box Office: 020 7565 5000 or book online at http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/NSFW

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Founded in 2011, Everything Theatre started life as a pokey blog run by two theatre enthusiasts and – thanks to the Entry Pass Scheme for 16-25 year olds – regular National Theatre goers. Today, we are run by part-time volunteers from a wide array of backgrounds. Among our various contributors are people who work in theatre, but also people who work in law, medicine, events, marketing and even psychiatry! We are all united by our love for the London theatre scene.