OFS reviewer and volunteer usher Lucy saw Naughty, July 2022.

It is 6.30pm on another sweltering July day and the cool of the drama studio is soothing and refreshing. I don’t know what to expect of the next show and despite the studio being packed and excited, I’m even prophesying that it might be academic… And then it begins.The lighting is very pink and gives the ambience of the girl’s section in a toy shop. She rides on stage on a scooter, badly. Of course she can’t park it. My prophesying changed quicktime and a grin glued on to my perplexed mug.

A woman, done up in a tutu and pink fluffy vest, performs as a little girl. Complete with tantrums, a search of her nose and other places (ears, orifices… ), it is packed full of laughter – much of it nervous – as it unabashedly plays the male gaze at its own game. Naughty is just that. It’s also hilarious and slightly unsettling. But its disturbance is well-placed: it reflects the male gaze back at itself. Patriarchal and perverted viewing of women is almost endemic, disseminated freely across all media platforms. This is a lens that is also viewed through by women and, you could suggest, acts as a rod to beat themselves in check…

Naughty doesn’t explicitly mention any of that. It is (blessedly?) devoid of language. It doesn’t tell, it shows, comically and in all its ridiculousness – this is the infantilisation of women. Sexy enough for all you paedos sewn into the fabric of patriarchy, yeah?

A soundtrack directs the performer. She has to sing us songs (badly, but a type of ‘bad’ that is mastery of itself, if you get me? So bad it’s good.), do some exercises that are also sort of dance moves and even bake a cake. It plays heavily on stereotypes and these mundane acts are turned on their head. She performs them as a child. The soundtrack acts as a kind of Big Brother/male gaze surveillance system that dictates her every move. It is playful, yet subtly genius. It is flirtatiously disturbing.

The performer is excellent. She keeps up this role, in all its hyperbole, throughout. She is bashful and clumsy, she is faultlessly absurd. The piece is rolling in jokes like she’s rolling in jelly (by the end) and abounds in puns even without speech. What does it mean to give birth to a jelly baby? Naughty illustrates.

A real laugh-out-loud piece of theatre that does exactly (in my uneducated supposition) what theatre should do… it makes you think and it pulls you out of your comfort zone. It exhilarates and unnerves, maybe in equal measure. But it shows you something that is a sensation.