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Oh Yes Oh No review at Camden People’s Theatre, London – ‘startling and resonant’

Louise Orwin in Oh yes Oh No at Camden People's Theatre, London. Photo: Field and McGlynn Louise Orwin in Oh yes Oh No at Camden People's Theatre, London. Photo: Field and McGlynn
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Louise Orwin’s Oh Yes Oh No is a challenging, thought-provoking one-woman show about the vagaries and violence of female desire.

It struggles with and celebrates recalcitrant aspects of sexuality, ideas not usually voiced in a culture that’s both censorious and saturated with hairless hetero-normative porn.

Via a microphone that distorts her voice to a hyper-girlish pitch, Orwin speaks of a wish to be controlled and objectified in bed. Against a blithe tinkling soundtrack, her repetitious phrases rise to a peak that’s ecstatic, agonised or both. The discomfort is heightened when she recalls a teenage experience of rape.

Later, a chorus of recorded female voices recount their experiences of assault and its aftermath. Collectively, they articulate troubling questions. Are a rape survivor’s submissive fantasies a product of trauma or triumphant reclamation of agency? How can feminism align with masochism? Why is sexuality bound up with shame?

Desire isn’t so much laid bare as interrogated through song, dance and the ‘play’ of audience participation, a game between performer and voyeur in which consent is scripted. Orwin and a volunteer silently manipulate Barbie and Ken dolls in a resort-themed ‘fantasy space’ – an astro-turfed pedestal complete with barbecue and sun-loungers over which a camera looms, looped to a grainy TV.

Surtitles accompany the plastic grappling. “I want to fuck her,” says Ken, as Barbie is bent and splayed. “I want him to want me,” thinks Barbie. “I want…”

Unashamedly ambiguous, unafraid to confront abjection: this is a brave, vital and demanding piece.

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Startling and resonant show questioning female desire and its relation to rape culture