The Absolute Truth About Absolutely Everything – 3 Stars

Everything

The Absolute Truth About Absolutely Everything

Camden People’s Theatre

Reviewed – 15th May 2018

★★★

“Most problematic, I found, was the assumption that men watch porn and women do not”

 

Olly Hawes greets us as we sit down. He is a theatre maker, the writer of ‘The Absolute Truth About Absolutely Everything’ and one of its performers. He is joined onstage by actor Molly Byrne. Their interaction before this point has been a half hour audition six days ago, and an hour or so of chatting this evening before the show. She doesn’t know what she will be reading, and the play is performed by a different female performer each night. This is an investigation into Hawes’ own misogyny, into his influence upon the world, into his relationship to porn and how much this kind of imagery does or does not begin to dictate our actions and our interactions with the world. He asks whether we can intellectually legitimise porn. At the same time he also questions the ethics of asking someone to read unseen material containing graphic sexual content.

Hawes is a socialist, we learn, who does his best to avoid paying tax, who shops in charity shops because the clothing industry is so unethical but doesn’t mind a bit of cocaine at the weekend, who supplements his career as a theatre maker with private tutoring but doesn’t believe in the private education system. He is flawed, full of contradictions, and as a result ultimately relatable. As a performer, Hawes is charming and likeable, which creates a lovely dichotomy between the graphic descriptions of his hard-core porn habit and his onstage persona.

Formatically the show is experimental and nonlinear, weaving between personal experience and fantasy, discussing and existing upon the boundary of what is real and what is not. This experimental approach is engaging and makes an extreme topic easy to connect with. However at points the piece meanders too far, perhaps trying to cover too much in one window of time, and it is Part 3: Porn, that is the most impactful and developed segment of the show. Hawes intersperses the show with moments of audience interaction that give us time outside of the narrative and balance the piece really well. This is something he also tries to do at the end, turning the space from a theatre to an open forum of discussion between the audience and the performers, however unfortunately the open endedness of this form means the effect is rather more like a trailing off. It is a risk that relies on the audience being brave enough to comment and ask questions, an interesting risk but one that needs a contingency plan if the audience do not offer questions.

Most problematic, I found, was the assumption that men watch porn and women do not. It is a binaristic, unnecessary and generalised gendering of the division between people who watch porn and don’t, and is also solely heteronormative. If this is Hawes’ experience of talking to people of different genders about porn, it needs to be couched in the language of personal experience, not propounded as something universal.

This is an interesting piece of work, a piece that challenges our perceptions of what is going on behind closed doors and investigates Hawes’ relationship to porn and, intertwined, to women. Hawes has an exciting voice, unafraid to play with form and exist on the boundary between theatre and performance art. This piece requires a more developed ending, and a streamlining of focus to fulfill its evident potential.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

 


The Absolute Truth About Absolutely Everything

Camden People’s Theatre until 17th MAy

 

 

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