Blurred Lines

Nick Payne and Carrie Cracknell’s Blurred Lines couldn’t be more topical. Loosely `inspired’ by Robin Thicke’s 2013 best-selling single whose lyrics and video set off a fire-storm of accusations about degrading women, more importantly it was Kat Banyard’s influential book, The Equality Illusion that set Payne and Cracknell’s minds racing.

Devised by the Company, with text by Payne and directed by Cracknell, the lines of demarcation of Blurred Lines are blurred indeed. Who knows where the one stops and the other begins.
Ironically, in this digital age, it’s the web that is serving to underline sexual inequality further. Last year Louise Orwin’s Pretty Ugly provided a devastating, rough edged critique of how social media’s accessibility is enabling abuse of young women and undermining their self-esteem.

Blurred Lines doesn’t carry the same visceral shock; it’s cooler, much more sophisticated in form and style. Its content however remains no less disturbing. It also manages a final, witty slap about glamourisation of violence against women with a brilliant send-up of a post-show discussion between a male Oxbridge director, an actress and journalist interviewer.

Cracknell’s production – it was seen in preview and may well have changed again – was already crisply alive on Bunny Christie’s day-glo staircase set. With something of the raciness and clinical clarity of Marianne Elliot’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Christie’s design gives the production a sense of smart, pop commercialism as well as offering a metaphor for the dangerous, slippery slope of male-female relations.

Using her talented all-female cast in a myriad number of ways – overlapping dialogue, song, rap poetry – the blurred lines of when dating becomes rape and the complexities of prostitution find fast, fragmented and often moving expression as in Susannah Wise’s husband confessing to his wife why he uses prostitutes and in Michaela Coel’s electrically charged dub poetry.

Fascinatingly, one scene where Claire Skinner’s working mother is taken to task by two female colleagues sharply echoes Ukip’s Nigel Farage who informed a conference this week that women in the City `are worth far less’ to their employers if they take time off to have children. As I said, couldn’t be more timely.