Loose Cannon Theatre
The Space @ Venue 45
Loose Cannon Theatre is a collective of students from Bristol University and the theatre course at Bristol Old Vic, and this is very much a collective show.
The premise is simple: a devised exploration of the notion of virginity, it crackles with irreverent humour, but also delivers some hair-raisingly dark accounts of first sexual experiences.
The show itself is a compendium of styles, verbatim accounts from contemporary young people, movement segments, lip-synched enactments of Hollywood films, pop songs about virginity, lighting effects, but it never feels unfocused. The range of techniques is controlled and a strong but simple style created.
The use of a bed draped in a white sheet as centrepiece of the playing area in a three-sided thrust is complemented by a draped white sheet at the back of the stage, where rear projections are matched by front projections from an old-skool overhead projector. Though the white-sheet projection is by now more than a little bit of a hackneyed device, the cast put it to work very effectively. Some of the effects created by the front projections, those involving water and red dye to symbolise blood, are powerful.
The show is not short on laughs – some of the lip-synched sections are excruciatingly funny, a standout being the re-enactment of the Inbetweeeners episode where, finally offered the chance to lose his virginity, Simon can’t get an erection. But with that, the show deals powerfully with an important issue: the convention that for heterosexual teenage girls, there is massive pressure to lose one’s virginity, and there is an assumption that it will be painful, unpleasant, even brutal, because the boy’s pleasure is what is important.
The ensemble here is four young women, and the piece has a strong bias towards the female perspective on virginity – this seems right for the material. For the most part the two males serve the core concerns about pressure on young women, and the piece is stronger for taking this stand. The toils of Simon from the Inbetweeners says all we need to know about the straight male side of the issue.
On the whole the performances are very good, with uniformly excellent acting by the women in the show. There are some uniquely talented young actors on display here. The show itself is ideal in style and format for the Edinburgh Fringe – a funny, poignant and intelligent piece that is both an audience pleaser and a theatrical investigation of a matter of importance.
Peter Mc Call