Review: Scarlet, Southwark Playhouse

“Let’s face it babes, you did kind of bring it on yourself”

We could all be Scarlet. A confident university student who knows what’s what and what she wants, her life is turned upside down after the consequences of a night’s heavy drinking are splashed across the internet without her consent. This video was posted by a nerdish man she previously turned down and its sexually explicit content has huge ramifications for Scarlet, not least in the course of action it leads her to take, as told in the world premiere by Theatre Renegade, currently playing in The Little at the Southwark Playhouse.

The world of sexual politics has a new frontier to deal with in the age of social media and this is what Sam H Freeman’s first play deals with in an engaging and essential way. The company of four actors all take on the role of Scarlet at one point or another, sharing her story and her experiences, but also questioning and interacting with each other. Splitting the narrative this way also throws up questions of how we are with the world around us, as each performer also plays the supporting characters in this story – or at least Scarlet’s versions of them. 

Joe Hufton’s production deals extremely well with this theatrical conceit and the whip-sharp dialogue is handled with aplomb by all four, especially once the tone darkens as Scarlet struggles to deal with the situation. Her relationships with her boyfriend and friends suffer, her revenge tactics backfire due to society’s hypocrisy when it comes to boasting about men’s sexual prowess whilst slut-shaming women in the same breath, her inability to see herself as a victim – whilst nominally a show of strength – blinds her to the reality of the abuse she can’t, or won’t, acknowledge has happened.

Even if you don’t see anything of yourself in Scarlet, Freeman cleverly shows how society is part of the problem and how we’re all responsible. For every thought that she shouldn’t dress like that, for imagining that being sexually confident equals asking for it, for every muttered aside about how she shouldn’t have been drinking so much – we’re part of this story whether we like it or not. And for this reason, it’s one of the more thought-provoking pieces of theatre around at the moment.

Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Richard Lakos

Booking until 9th May

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