Content warning: this play and review contains topics of rape and sexual violence.
Centered around 16-year-old Joey’s testimony about the night she was assaulted by three of her friends, Slut: the Play interweaves Joey’s interviews and the reactions of Joey’s female classmates. The play itself has a rich history, initially created by the all-girl, non-profit theatre organization The Arts Effect. Slut: the Play was eventually adapted into the Netflix Series Grand Army.
The organization of the play translated well to a Zoom format, utilizing a mix of filmed (masked) group scenes, Zoom calls, and individual recorded monologues to tell the story. The ability for monologues to be filmed in genuine locations was a powerful dynamic in Basement Arts’ adaptation. Joey’s friend Jane talking to an unseen mother in a kitchen. The sister of one of the perpetrators pleading him for answers while sitting cross-legged on her bed, laptop on her lap.
Strong acting throughout, I was gripped by the cast’s performance. The play was difficult to watch at times, with disturbing content matter both in terms of sexual assault descriptions and some character’s reactions to the events in question. However, I think it was a brutal call to recognize the many different aspects of a toxic culture that often discourage survivors from speaking up.
The titular word, ‘slut,’ starts off as a sex-positive term among Joey’s classmates for their dance team nicknamed “The Slut Squad,” but turns into a horrible, derogatory, blame-filled word once Joey steps forward with her story. A community reacting with victim-blaming and accusations of lying leave Joey wondering if there will ever be resolution for her, considering the way her community has responded to her coming forward. The play ends, however, with a small glimpse of hope–the words “I believe you.”
Basement Arts did a speaker series to accompany this show, including interviews with Sexual Assault Survivor Advocate Vanity Catoni-Ellis and co-creator of the play Meg McInerney, which I think was an important supplement to the show, considering the heavy content material. Overall, I believe Basement Arts handled this production well, making it work for the current circumstances in order to ensure the meaning of the material wasn’t lost.
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