When reading the plot summary of threadbare, it feels inevitable that spectators are subjecting themselves to 55 minutes of heavy-hitting drama. The subject of revenge porn is one that is appearing far too often in the news; a sensitive subject that is incredibly important to address.
Yet, as a piece of original writing, threadbare is admirable in its determination to avoid the play being weighed down by its subject matter. It is a very funny piece – so much so that it at times feels wrong to be laughing when we remember why we are sitting there.
Very early on, threadbare addresses the complicated nature of convicting people for revenge porn. It is very effective in teaching the audience what constitutes ‘image-based sexual abuse’, and how out-dated some law enforcement practices are when it comes to handling these cases. Not only does threadbare acknowledge the limitations of the police force, it also acknowledges the difficulty many face in successfully receiving justice, condemning social media corporations that do so little to help the victims of such offences.
Before the show and offstage, the actors stare fixedly at their phones. Minotaur Theatre Company must be commended on this subtle yet acute reflection of how dependent we are to technology and social media – one which is likely lost on many of the audience members, too engrossed in their own discussions before the play begins. This attention to detail is a very promising sign to what this University of East Anglia company is capable of, and the thought and care that has gone behind this production.
That said, the show is not without its flaws and sadly, these faults lie in threadbare’s protagonist, Mia. Despite many of the characters referring to the ‘traumatic’ ordeal that Mia has suffered, we do not see the toll it takes on her until the end. In fact, Mia for the most part seems unfazed by the attack on her privacy: she only truly shows signs of distress when the play reaches its climax – when she needs to convince the others and us of how much she has suffered. Moreover, this lack of distress seen in Mia is not helped by Georgia Crowe’s delivery of her lines. While threadbare’s script is certainly naturalistic in terms of the characters’ conversations with one another, Crowe is so quick to respond and say her lines that most of what she says is lost, leaving no time for contemplation or laughs from the audience. Thankfully, the rest of the cast are able to maintain a steady – and often witty – pace with their dialogue. Mia’s ditsy and incredibly vulgar friend Sophie (Lily Millar) is a great counterbalance to both Mia and the play’s heavy subject.
Despite its early potential, threadbare begins to lose its way towards to the end. Tension rises amongst the characters as they find themselves together on stage; however, it is promptly undermined by humour (giving bad comedic timing a whole new meaning). What is more, the play finishes with Mia reclaiming her body, vowing to march in the streets for nudity and women’s bodies to no longer be a source of shame. Yet, while we are meant to see Mia as an empowered woman, such a vision is soured by the fact that she proves herself to be no better than the individual who posted the explicit photos of her in the first place.
threadbare had the opportunity to dramatically teach both Mia and the audience a lesson about how respect goes both ways. Unfortunately, this anticlimactic ending and too many laughs left threadbare’s aim lost, and regrettably misguided.
theSpace on North Bridge/Hilton Hotel (Venue 36)
Until 19th August (not 13th)
Photo credit: Bobbi Nunes