Pleasance Dome – Ace Dome
The audience are greeted on arrival by a scantily and fluorescent-clad Clementine Bogg-Hargroves as she ushers us into our seats, high-fiving those in the front row. “Love you” she giggles, and we obediently respond “Love you too!” The set is limited to a metal frame and a dancing pole. Co-creator Zoey Barnes sits to the side on keyboards looking deferentially at Bogg-Hargroves.
Given the publicity material for this show, I had expectations but I was, deliberately I imagine, wrongfooted. Bogg-Hargroves starts her monologue with a description of her adolescent sexual desires. Like many of us at that stage, her ideas of love are intrinsically and mistakenly mixed up with sex and misinformed by popular adolescent magazines. But she is keen, I’ll say that. Not promiscuous as such, but an inquisitive teenager eager to experience life and become sexually experienced: because that’s how boys will love her, right? She is obsessed with Ben, a frequent sexual partner, if not her only one. He uses her for sex. She has hopes of a loving, mutually caring relationship. As time moves on, Ben has other girlfriends, but they hook up occasionally for sex. When it suits Ben. In a move to persuade him to focus solely on her, she ‘forgets’ to take her contraceptive pill. The inevitable happens, and he forces her to have an abortion.
Suddenly, there’s a step change in emotion on stage. What has been a fairly normal, if ill-advised, teenage relationship becomes harmful and destructive. Destructive to Clementine of course, not Ben. He drives her to the abortion clinic, not because he cares, but because he wants to make sure it happens. Despite her emotional pain she is sufficiently self-aware to understand this is why he is with her.
The performance continues as we follow Bogg-Hargroves’ life. Assured, bright and determined she tries to forge her own path, but experiences significant sexual harassment at various turns. And when I say harassment I mean physically threatening, scary behaviour at the hands of men. And she is not alone, it happens to her friends and others she knows.
This is a play that could be dark and emotionally draining, but Bogg-Hargroves and Barnes mix the drama with clubland classics, high energy dancing, smiles and laughter. Because that’s what women do, right? Never complain: it’s our fault that we’re being threatened.
Cleverly constructed, this is a moving combination of honesty, humour, audience engagement and reality. The human condition lies at its heart as Bogg-Hargroves tries to survive, emotionally and physically and work out what she ‘should’ have done. She finishes the performance with apologies; to her dad for not replying to his awkward but loving calls more frequently, to her friends for not defending them, to others that she feels she has neglected, and to those who are unable to seek an abortion.
This is an astutely written piece illuminating the hypocritical societal influences that determine women’s identities alongside the human condition of just wanting to be loved. Please Love Me is both a heartfelt battle cry and need for acceptance.
And as for the partnership of Bogg-Hargroves and Barnes – well, they are the perfect combination of support and foil to each other. Musical interludes and comic interactions make this a very special piece indeed and this is a partnership that could go on to great heights.
Created by: Clementine Bogg-Hargroves & Zoey Barnes
Produced by: Clementine Bogg-Hargroves / Future Artists
Please Love Me plays at The Pleasance Dome for EdFringe until 26 August. Further information and bookings can be found here.