LUCY SILVER reviews ‘Private View’ showing at Theatre Delicatessen.

On the stage of Theatre Delicatessen, Izabella Malewska lies on a waxing table as Lilly Pollard, anxiously addresses her bikini line. To the right of the stage Tutku Barbaros, a beautician holding a ripe mango and a wax strip, poses sinisterly: ‘Are you going on holiday?’ Barbaros sneers as she mercilessly waxes the skin off the fruit. ‘Your boyfriend will be pleased.’ The comparison is not lost on the audience.

This is ‘Private View’ – Plunge Theatre’s unflinching exploration of the relationship between women and the media and how it affects the way we think about our bodies. The production uses a mixture of mime and verbatim text, interspersed with dance to Destiny’s Child’s ‘Bootylicious’. It succeeds in being funny, uncomfortable, feminist and moving. 

The first part of the show consists of several comic sketches that address social attitudes towards female body hair, body shape and the media’s ever-changing criteria of what constitutes as sexy. Often, comedy sketches that explore the subject matter of waxing and weight loss run the risk of undermining the women who undergo such rituals in the pursuit of bodily perfection. However, ‘Private View’ manages to ridicule the society that demands such standards of ‘perfection’, rather than belittling the women who are affected by the pressure to attain it.

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Although Plunge Theatre’s physical comedy sketches are largely good, the trio are at their best when delivering their personal experiences of the intense barrage of criticism and micro aggressions that women face throughout their lives. These comments are overlaid, exchanged and repeated by each actress in turn, establishing a feeling of universality. They are the voices of street harassers, work colleagues, friends and other women. They are familiar.

‘Private View’ recognises how we as women can internalise and obsess over negative comments until they are ingrained in our psyches and become a part of our daily insecurities. Having examples of abuse directed at three different body types successfully emphasises the fact that no one is exempt from body-shaming. The examination of street harassment in particular makes ‘Private View’ vital viewing for anyone who still regards “cat-calling” as harmless fun.

‘Private View’ is an engaging performance by a cohesive theatre company. It is highly entertaining and thought-provoking for anyone interested in feminism and theatre.

‘Private View’ will be showing at Theatre Delicatessen until 31st of January, 2015. Tickets £12/10 concessions. More information available here:

http://www.theatredelicatessen.com/whats-on/private-view/

Image credited to the Plunge Theatre.