Home » Reviews » Comedy » Review: This Porno Does Not Pass the Bechdel Test, Ectetera Theatre

Review: This Porno Does Not Pass the Bechdel Test, Ectetera Theatre

Porn’s changed since I was a teen. Pre-internet you hoped a schoolmate might sneak a magazine into school, and all gather around at break to get a glimpse. Oh, such innocent times. Nowadays it’s probably harder not to see porn than to actually see it. It’s this easy access that risks people becoming desensitised, young viewers believing what they see on screen as normal. Which might explain a recent report that boys asking in sex-ed how to choke girls is scarily common! Jessie-Wren Jacob’s This Porno Does Not Pass the Bechdel Test takes this concept of easy access and…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

A carefully crafted show that takes aim at availability of porn and the damage this can do. Highly amusing until suddenly things get serious!

Porn’s changed since I was a teen. Pre-internet you hoped a schoolmate might sneak a magazine into school, and all gather around at break to get a glimpse. Oh, such innocent times. Nowadays it’s probably harder not to see porn than to actually see it. It’s this easy access that risks people becoming desensitised, young viewers believing what they see on screen as normal. Which might explain a recent report that boys asking in sex-ed how to choke girls is scarily common!

Jessie-Wren Jacob’s This Porno Does Not Pass the Bechdel Test takes this concept of easy access and runs amok with it. What begins as a highly amusing show about the porn industry suddenly takes us to much darker places as we are forced to question whether watching porn of any kind can ever be a victimless pleasure.

Sienna (a superbly ditzy Jacobs), lucky winner of Lance Hardwood’s (Paddy Lish) “f*ck-a-fan” competition, is now nervously waiting for the camera to roll on their livestreamed performance. Whilst they wait, they chat, slowly debating the rights and wrongs of what Lance does. And slowly Sienna‘s ditzy exterior begins to fade away until the real reason she entered the competition becomes clear.

Jacobs’ writing cleverly leads us through this debate about porn. It builds slowly and subtly, until suddenly we are confronted with some uncomfortable truths, especially about how limits are constantly being pushed to keep a paying audience engaged. The laughter that fills Etcetera Theatre slowly dries up, and you wonder if more than a few of the audience are left questioning their viewing habits.

The ending especially poses a question that will surely spring to mind next time you are tempted to have a little alone time with your screen! But a few moments leading to this disturbing ending need tightening up, not quite holding together under closer inspection; such as why Lance is needed to dress up in the way Sienna persuades him to (it seems to bear no relevance to where she is taking him), or mentions of police that seem to contradict themselves. But these are minor quibbles that can be ironed out as the show develops.

Jacobs and Lish seem to be having plenty of fun in their roles. At least until the fun must stop. Lish wonderfully encompasses the cocksure semi-famous porn star, a man clearly in love with himself above all else, and so obsessed by what he does that sex is now just another transaction; “I even feel guilty having a w*nk if it’s not on camera”! His opening scene as he prepares for Sienna’s arrival, preening himself whilst trying not to get moisturiser on his phone has the audience cackling before a word is spoken. Jacobs’ Sienna has much more complexity, her initial ditzy persona so real that as the outer shell is chipped away its genuinely surprising as to what is hidden inside.

Zoe Manset‘s direction keeps both actors on their toes, with some clever touches that allow flashbacks to happen smoothly without ever interrupting the flow. However, a little more thought about lighting decisions during Jacobs’ monologues wouldn’t go amiss, as the move from spotlight to full lighting at times feeling mistimed.

This is a clever and thought-provoking show that explores our attitudes to porn and the possible damage such easy access could be doing. It wonderfully balances great humour with hard-hitting truths, leaving us with plenty to ponder upon, especially next time you might be tempted to take a peek at all that content available at the click of a button.


Written by: Jessie-Wren Jacobs
Directed by: Zoe Manset
Movement direction by: Paddy Lish

You can hear more about this show in our recent interview with writer and performer Jessie-Wren Jacobs here.

This Porno Does Not Pass the Bechdel Test has completed its run at Etcetera Theatre. It will next be performing at EdFringe from 19 – 24 August. Further information and tickets available here. Further information is available on the show’s dedicated website here.

About Rob Warren

Someone once described Rob as "the left leaning arm of Everything Theatre" and it's a description he proudly accepted. It is also a description that explains many of his play choices, as he is most likely to be found at plays that try to say something about society. Willing though to give most things a watch, with the exception of anything immersive - he prefers to sit quietly at the back watching than taking part!