The scene is set immediately upon arrival in the intimate heart of the National Theatre’s red Shed. The Prodigy’s Smack my Bitch Up and Beastie Boys’ Girls blast over the speakers. But this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Sexism and gender inequality are still alive and kicking, in spite of the perception that all is well – after all, the piece takes its title from Robin Thicke’s highly explicit and controversial song.
Blurred Lines is a powerful and deep performance that packs a lot into just over an hour. Writer Nick Payne and director Carrie Cracknell present a no-holds-barred exploration of sexism which deftly examines everything from beauty, equal pay and the “work-life balance” to prostitution, domestic abuse and rape. Sexism can happen to any woman: old, young, wealthy, poor, black or white, even those with a “character face”. The issues are tackled with emotional intensity but also bold humour, which intensifies the impact of this production. These are issues which need to be spoken aloud and addressed, and this short but punchy piece drives the message home, and makes it apparent that women are affected by gender inequality from the moment they wake up.
The use of song, physical performance and dance to portray characters is skillfully done, from parodies of hypersexualised pop music videos to a disturbing attack sequence, repeated as if being shot for a film with the victim being dressed (or rather, undressed) in increasingly sexualised clothing, becoming Woman as Object. The actors take on many roles, including those of men. There is even a rather humorous mock academic discussion in which a director (male, pompous, legs spread and taking up space) attempts to justify his depiction of a sexualised episode of domestic violence in his play.
Blurred Lines certainly gets the message out without being preachy or heavy-handed. It clearly portrays the impact of gender inequality on the day-to-day lives of women, and brings to light the illusion of equality, which is only surface-deep. It signals a time of resurgent feminism and equality. With that in mind, it was refreshing to see so many men as well as women in the audience.
Blurred Lines continues at The Shed at the National Theatre until 22 February, suitable for 15+ years. Please note that the production contains references to a sexual assault. Tickets £20 / £12, now primarily through day tickets available from 12pm. Londonist saw this production on a complimentary ticket.