Staged as part of the Where Are We Now festival for emerging artists The Lesson is a curious offering. The pre-publicity blurb only adds to the mystery; telling of a naked body made in Spain and transported to London in a box with a bag over its head. The Lesson aims to investigate the source of Spain’s sexual consent problems; challenging subject matter indeed, particularly for a one woman show.
Upon entering audience members are asked how they feel about audience participation. A sensible move under the circumstances as this show simply wouldn’t work without it. Predictably I decline and retreat to safety in the third row. Unsurprisingly, the show begins with a girl in a box and a bag over her head. A voice then booms a list of instructions to participants; the same do’s and don’ts are also distributed on a printed sheet; among other things the instructions given are that you can touch, pinch, hit and kiss the body. Covering, feeding, moving and cleaning the body are just some of the actions forbidden. Participants are given 30 seconds to take action although none did. The girl (Gracia Rios Calderon) struggles to get out of the box. Eventually she escapes to reveal the word Puta (Spanish for whore/ bitch) scribbled on her back. Booming voice then returns in the guise of a judge asking for evidence of the alleged incident.
The opening sequences make the position pretty clear; in Spain women are seen as objects, victims of sexual assault are never taken seriously. Gracia uses two cardboard boxes, a sex toy and a Barbie Doll to explore male attitudes to the opposite sex. The cardboard box seems to represent the generalisation of women; while the bag over her head may refer to the lack of interest in a woman’s character. The Lesson makes its point very early in the piece; so symbolic props seem to be cornering the same point; unless there’s a deeper meeting that passed me by?
Overall, the piece hangs together reasonably well, and audience participants get a kick out of it. Gracia Rios Calderon has a playful, charming presence; it takes guts to stand up in front of a live audience and deliver a performance that is both convincing and sincere, for this she deserves much credit.
Written and Performed by: Gracia Rios Calderon
Booking Until: This show has now completed its run