If you are male, and you are familiar with the term ‘misogyny’, but you’re not entirely sure how you feel about this word, then you may be interested in discussing it further with THEATREClub. They’re playing The Game this September, it’s a game that will challenge you, a game you’re not often implicated in, and they want to talk to you about why this might be.
The Game is the theatre collective’s latest production, part of the programme for this year’s Dublin Theatre Festival. Each night, the performers will ask men (just like you) to take part in an exploration of the act of buying sex. The show will bring five new men onto the stage each evening, the questions will be new to them, and there will be no script, or rehearsals. These men will be invited to engage in issues around the sex trade, prostitution, trafficking and consent, for perhaps the first time. This is a symbolic act, with the aim to connect with the audience, to make us reconsider our own views.
The group has earned a strong reputation for its challenging, provocative performances, with previous, acclaimed shows such as History and Heroine; these are productions that have demanded their audiences’ attention, as a way to drive change. The Game is no different.
Grace Dyas has devised this play with THEATREClub members, Gemma Collins and Lauren Larkin (who will perform in the show, with the five men), discusses how the project evolved:
‘We all read Paid For, by Rachel Moran. We liked the structure of the book, how a personal experience would be interwoven with academic analysis and social observations. We were struck by how the book demanded change.
After reading the book, the members of THEATREClub approached Rachel, an Irish woman who was prostituted for seven years from the age of fifteen and has actively campaigned for the Nordic Model in Ireland since 2011. Rachel agreed to work with them, and the group then developed a wide network of collaborators as the work progressed.
This show is timely. The rights of women is currently one of the most controversial and emotionally charged debates in Irish society with the recent outrage from anti-sex trade campaigners, following a decision by Amnesty International to support the decriminalisation of the sex trade, including pimps, brothel owners and sex buyers along with the tireless work of pro-choice movements in Ireland such as the Abortion Rights Campaign and Speaking of Imelda. With this in mind, Grace explains why they thought to invite men on stage:
‘The first impulse was about feminism, and how men’s voices are rarely visible in discussions around the topic. Then when we were looking deeper at prostitution, we found that the buyers are often invisible, the discourse centres more around the causality of why a woman is involved, whether she is forced, consenting, trafficked or empowered. There is very little talk about the buyers, as though it’s a given that men just need sex and so their involvement doesn’t warrant a discussion. We wanted to make visible the men who are buying sex’.
THEATREClub make a necessary commentary on the problems surrounding sex work ‘How we legislate makes a statement about our values. The legal status of prostitution is a measure of our society. Laws around the world are changing. We’re all affected by those changes’. A play like this is divisive, but the group welcome this; they want us to speak out: ‘We will hear you. If you want to tell us anything, or share anything with us, we will listen’.
This performance will not result in any direct outcomes, and it will not resolve many of our questions, as there is no appropriate way to address these experiences other than to challenge and educate others. However, it’s exciting to see such a young theatre company engaging with these issues, hopefully stimulating discussions and inviting their audience to rethink the unfamiliar. ‘We want audiences to form an opinion over the course of the piece, with complete autonomy to do so. We will be creating the space for them to do that’.
The level of interest from men has encouraged the ensemble, ‘Heart warmingly… We’ve had a lot of applications from men from all walks of life. It’s been really great, but we still need more.’
You can find out more about the project by contacting Shaun Dunne at [email protected].
The show will take place in The Cube at Project Arts Centre, from 7 October – 11 October. Tickets: €10 – €20. Dublin Theatre Festival 2015 runs from 24 Sept – 11 Oct.