by Louise Orwin.
Camden People’s Theatre 58-60 Hampstead Rd NW1 2PY In rep to 9 November 2013.
7.30pm 23-26, 31 Oct, 6, 7, 9 Nov.
9pm 30 Oct, 5 Nov.
Runs 1hr No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7419 4841.
Review: Carole Woddis 25 October.
Taking risks and asking questions.
What must it be like being a teenager growing up these days with so much `out there’ a digital step away? Particularly if you’re a young girl worrying about your appearance and vulnerable to online bullying.
Obsessing about appearance has always been an easy trap for young women to fall into. Social media make taking advantage of that even easier.
Cue Pretty Ugly, a performance piece by Louise Orwin that is manipulative, shocking and finally profoundly moving when you consider the can of worms social media have opened up but have, as yet, found no way to mitigate.
As the opening show in Camden People’s Theatre’Calm Down, Dear’ festival of feminism (admirably curated by Jenny Paton and the Guardian’s Brian Logan) Pretty Ugly couldn’t be a better exemplar of the toxic nexus that is the freedom and abuse the online world now offers. Based on Orwin’s research of teenage girls who post pictures of themselves asking for feedback as to whether they are pretty or ugly, it is at once emblematic of the all-pervasive narcissism of our age, and its nemesis.
Selfie magnified to the power of 10, Pretty Ugly starts with an extended riff of Orwin, videocaming herself in blonde wig synching to Britney Spears’ `Hit Me Baby One More Time’. It’s a videocam that spares us nothing – the throaty vulva seen in full glory – before Orwin roller skates off and introduces a continuing tension between the professional performer and a juvenilia she represents in the i>alter-ego stories of the animal miniatures that become part of her show, and of her stream-of-consciousness narrator.
Orwin takes terrible risks. She invites our own comments on her: Is she pretty or is she ugly – later rejecting the question itself as part of the process of abuse. And like Ursula Martinez whose show My Stories Your Emails this one fiercely echoes with its `outing’ of online respondents, Orwin attempts to wrestle control back from a world spiralling out of control.
Uncomfortably in-yer-face in style, Pretty Ugly nonetheless is horribly pertinent. I came away troubled but enlightened.
Performed by Louise Orwin.
Designer: Louise Orwin.
Supported and funded by Camden People’s Theatre and Arts Council of England.
Developed on CPT’s Starting Blocks Scheme.
Written by Louise Orwin and sourced online (the POU videos, Vice Magazine, Buzzfeed) and from popular culture (Lolita, Clueless, Mean Girls).