Exeposé Arts & Lit online (20 May 2016)
Did you know ducks have decoy vaginas? The sneaky devils. But see, it’s because male ducks like to gang-rape their ladies. So I guess Todd Akin was right when he said rape victims don’t get pregnant, because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Except for the tiny problem that he wasn’t actually talking about ducks…
This is the kind of stuff Adrienne Truscott satirises in Asking For It. On May 3, the New York comic brought her controversial stand-up to Exeter’s Corn Exchange for a one-off show in partnership with Devon Rape Crisis. Billed as a “One-lady rape about comedy,” the flyers promised it would star “her pussy and little else!” And yeah, Truscott’s lady-parts do play a starring role… but “little else”? That hardly does it justice.
Having interviewed Truscott earlier in the week, I knew what I was letting myself in for. Well, sort of. Nudity? Yep. Wickedly sharp jabs at society’s blasé attitude to rape? Of course. They arrive minute-by-minute. The gems in Truscott’s performance are those tiny comments, the throwaway utterances. Like after she’s acted out an interview where the boss goes for a handshake and she panics and blows her rape whistle. “I misread his body language” she quickly chucks in – which carries some weight here, right?
This is a multimedia, multi-layered and multi-purpose performance. Sure, it’s a show about rape, but it’s also a comedy – and Truscott knows that to keep us engaged, she’s got to keep us laughing. The whistle’s a key prop throughout – from learning we can blow it if we want her to stop, to suggestions everyone needs a whistle just in case they feel like raping someone. Think about it: one quick puff and passers-by can leap in to stop you. Genius! Between that, puns about ‘cereal rape’ (“Do you want milk with that?” “No.” -pours milk anyway-) and Truscott’s truly hilarious interpretation of why you “shouldn’t look anyone in the eye while eating a banana” it’s a high-energy, high-stakes performance that’s just as outrageous as the posters suggest. Like, faces-projected-onto-naked-vaginas kinda outrageous.
One thing I went in utterly unprepared for, though, was the intense gratitude bursting from the seams of this Corn Exchange audience. It’s very telling that when Truscott returns to the stage (de-wigged and re-trousered) for “questions and challenges,” what she actually gets are powerfully heartfelt messages of thanks. For many in the audience, this was something they needed to see and hear. And Truscott may bare all physically during the show, but it’s during the Q&As that we really feel we’ve got her at her most vulnerable. “I knew if I didn’t get it right, I’d be crucified,” she admits, talking very candidly about the jokes from tonight’s show that she’s struggled to get right – and probably still hasn’t perfected. One question that really sticks out is this: Truscott’s powerful material and hysterical wit stand alone. So why the props and costumes (or lack thereof)? Surely it’s just gimmicky?
“I’m well aware it’s gimmicky!” Truscott laughs. “But I knew it’d sell tickets, and I don’t wanna do this to an empty room!” She’s got a point: if you’ve got something important to share with the world, you want people to stop and listen. And if that means getting your vagina out… well, so be it.
Image: Sara Brown