EFR - Reviews of Partial Nudity

Partial Nudity

Fri 5th – Sat 27th August 2016

reviews

Maddy Searle

at 22:49 on 22nd Aug 2016

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‘Partial Nudity’ plunges the audience straight into the seedy world of stripping, and asks them to consider how society’s expectations of women differ from those of men. Despite having only two actors onstage, the play is full of surprises and sass.

The stage is dotted with grubby beer kegs, a slouchy 70s brown armchair, and an out-of-order fruit machine. We first encounter Darren (Joe Layton), a male stripper dripping with bravado, hooting like a sex-mad ape. Layton oozes sleazy confidence as Darren, magnetic and horrific in equal measure as he spews casual sexism.

Soon, a nameless American stripper appears on the scene (Kate Franz) whom Darren teases with comments about her costumes and her appearance. Although petite, Franz has a commanding presence onstage, giving as good as she gets, and battling fiercely for respect. We discover that she is in fact a student, financing her course with stripping, but without her mother’s knowledge. Unlike Darren, she has no illusions about her job, and knows that her clients see her only as an object. It is only at the end of the play that Darren has enough consideration to ask her name: Nina.

The true strength of the play is the relationship between the characters. Nina at first appears to be the underdog, constantly hounded (no pun intended) by Darren’s insensitivity. But soon her justifiable anger at his lack of awareness means that she has the upper hand, and Darren is forced to reconsider his view of the profession. The back and forth is also, at times, hilarious, as Darren misunderstands Nina’s literary references, or misuses a turn of phrase.

The naturalistic set gives the impression of a dingy Northern pub, but is unobtrusive enough to blend into the background, allowing the actors to be the centre of attention. The lighting is also true to a pub back-room: a single flickering bulb which begins the play by blinking on. The throb of club music as if from a distant room is definitely effective: it gives a sense of foreboding and the job that must be done.

The themes of ‘Partial Nudity’ are not only applicable to strippers, but to men and women in general, making it relevant to every single member of the audience. If you want a play which is entertaining, but which also brings up truly important issues of gender in this world of slut-shaming and porn, this is definitely worth the ticket price.

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Darcy Rollins

at 18:10 on 23rd Aug 2016

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The stage is bare, save for a few items indicating the pub setting. A man and woman walk onstage, and talk about their job. On the most basic level, ‘Partial Nudity’ sounds boring. But what unfolds over the next 50 minutes is interesting until the very end (and no, not just because it’s about the mildly taboo topic of strippers).

Nina is ‘icy’ and jaded. Darren is a ‘well-meaning’ lad. They are each the embodiment of gender stereotypes. Although this dynamic could be obvious, the script uses this to its advantage by breathing life into these tired stereotypes. It also seeks to explain them, hinting at the motivation of these characters.

One moment particularly shows this. The ‘well-meaning’ lad figure of Darren consistently objectifies ‘icy’ Nina as much as any paying client from the beginning. So when Nina gives an impassioned speech about dancing in front of men who could easily overpower her, the Labrador is put on the same scale. She breaks through the ice cold bitch stereotype by giving depth to an insult. The so-called ice is a defence developed by the onslaught of objectification her job brings. Nina delivers with this speech with steely focus. Ice is too easily-broken to describe this character. This speech also pierces through Darren’s supposedly harmless banter, by giving voice to the other side.

This interaction is also typical of the battle of the sexes type interaction between the two. This fight is reflected naturally yet powerfully through the actors' positioning. Nina and Darren are engaged in a tango of everyday positions; their bodies reflecting the power play of their words.

It is impressive that in a play so obviously addressing the gender politics of today, there is never a moment in which the topical issues feel forced. Credit must go to the writer for skillfully integrating such big, contemporary questions into Darren and Nina’s natural dialogue. Equally, it is refreshing how, for such an eye-catching topic, nothing is gratuitously done. When each stripper removes their clothing, it is to say something about their character. It is simply a conversation, but a fascinating one. The play is almost old-fashioned in a way; no innovation, just interaction.

In a world of average productions with lofty ambitions, ‘Partial Nudity’ shines as precisely the reverse: an unpretentious, almost casual play that stumbles upon fundamental truths. Or so it makes you think.

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