Shameless Hussy Productions
by Meghan Gardner

Dates and Venue  Tue. May 21 at 10am & 1pm, Wed. May 22 to Fri. May 24 at 1pm & 8pm | CBC Studio 700

Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson

Ten years ago Meghan Gardiner wrote a short play describing the events around what is commonly (though incorrectly) known as date-rape. She used a tried and true format: many characters, lots of short, linked skits and sketches and one performer to knit everything into a story. Then she put it on the stage and toured it many times, polishing and refining the details. This is a cracker of a play, sharp, funny and very contemporary.

The plot is straightforward. A girl, Any Girl, goes out to a club one evening, fellow she knows buys her a drink, next morning she wakes up with a blank where the recollection of the evening should be, no hangover and enough disturbing symptoms to send her to her GP, who diagnoses a “date-rape” drugging.

The play is designed to inform and inform it does. A priceless satirical ad for Rohypnol (tired of being rejected? – get laid in 20-30 minutes) and a pharmacology lecture given as a patter song probably cover more information in less time than it takes to read a Wikipedia article. But through the observations of its many characters it also shows how invisible the problem of “drug facilitated sexual assault’ is. Neither the know-it-all bartender nor the gossipy clubbing couple notice the girl has been drugged, both the brainless best friend and the doctor first think of too much booze.

There are 16 characters in this play but until the final minutes none of them is the Girl. Her shape is sketched by the observations and reactions of the other characters and seen only in the mind’s eye, making it very easy for any audience member to identify closely with her. And only in the final minutes does this become an emotional drama.

Emmelia Gordon plays all the parts with verve and skill. Besides being a shape-shifter extra-ordinaire, she has a gift for a defining accent that is spot on. The bouncer was hilarious, and the nosy neighbour, but my favourite was the ditzy girlfriend’s voice, whose breathless rhythms of speech were just this side of caricature.

Lighting, costume, sound and set were all well-done, light and sound especially helping with localizing the rapid scene changes.

This play is intended for college and university audiences. Accordingly a talk back follows every performance. Because the play is non-judgemental and not limited to girls’ issues, it should be relatively easy to start a good question and answer session, which was certainly the case when I attended. If I have any criticism it is that there is no specific point in the play on which young men  could easily start a discussion. It is to be hoped that the facilitators at every performance will make a point of drawing young men in.

Both playwright and director, Meghan Gardiner and Renée Iaci, in their notes express the wish that one day the message of this play will be obsolete. They are perhaps too young to have grown up with the mantra 'Candy's dandy, liquor's quicker'. I fear the only change that will come about is that a new line should be added: 'but club drugs really rock.'  But that's all the more reason for plays of this sort to be seen and heard.  

© 2013 Elizabeth Paterson