“In a world simultaneously soaked with sex, pornography, hook-up apps, sexism and slut-shaming, how do young people today navigate physical relationships?” ask the team behind a new original production coming to The Blue Room in November. Co-created/co-directed by Tim Green and Samantha Maclean, Tissue delves into how relationships are affected by sex and porn in media and pop culture. Green takes us through the show’s inception and sheds light on what he and Maclean are preparing to reveal.
How have you gone about gathering and compiling material for the show?
The initial concept for Tissue was born from previous short work ‘Porn-Oh’ written and performed by my co-director Samantha Maclean. ‘Porn-Oh’ was exploring the treatment of women within the porn industry, specifically the instances of porn consumption being used as a defence for violent acts. From this starting point we refocused the scope to a more specific and personal angle of ‘young Australians’ and the impacts of porn on us and our relationships. We pursued rigorous research into statistics and academic findings related to cycles of addiction, specifically the cycle of porn addiction, as well as conducting online surveys about the sexual education experiences of our contemporaries. This research heavy basis has allowed Samantha and me to use tasks within our devising process to extract, develop and play with material born from our devisers’ own experiences, which we then massaged and manipulated into the version of the production that the audience will see. With research underpinning the work we’ve done in the room it’s given us more scope to play with devising tasks and personal experiences in the final product.
We live in a moment of increasing awareness and acceptance of different types of sexuality. Do you feel like you’ll be able to cover the gamut of experience and perspectives that 20-somethings have on physical relationships, or will you focus in on just a few?
In my opinion an attempt to cover the entirety of experiences and perspectives of twenty-somethings is a near impossible task, particularly in a sixty minute performance with a cast of three. Our process has focused on creating a more specific narrative that allows us to deal with our chosen subject matter in a way that is made universally relatable via specificity. Whilst we do follow a narrative in TISSUE, we’ve also used the form of Greek chorus narrators throughout in order to broaden the scope of the content. It is important to mention that the narrative is a lens through which we explore the stigma surrounding porn, and that stigma and its ramifications are really at the heart of the show.
One of the most interesting aspects of creating this work has been the absence of objective fact. You can look to almost any study done by any university or health clinic or newspaper and find vastly different results – where it’s statistics about men v women, teens v the elderly, straight v queer. I personally have seen the generations below me grow up with and understand social media and the duality of the online/real-life persona in a way that is very different to my age bracket. Adults in their twenties and above can for the most part remember floppy discs, cassette tapes and dial up internet, and have had to adapt. There is an increase in the demand for social media and online literacy in the job market, so this adaptation has been an important process.
One of our cast members shared an anecdote where during their high schooling there was a student who would take requests CDs of porn, burn the discs and sell them to other students. Today exposure to porn is almost unavoidable, with statistics stating the average age of exposure to porn at eleven, and rapidly decreasing. By that token, Samantha and I are intrigued to see how both a younger (15+) and older audience respond to the work, as their engagement with porn and sexuality will have been significantly different to our own.
What are some of the ways that 20-somethings get ignored in public debate on the issues you’re tackling in the show? Who dominates the debate?
We think the problem lies in that this debate often held in situations where the person speaking on behalf of the young adults is not a young adult themselves. The conservative voice dominates and we are often spoken for and about rather than having our experience heard or legitimised. This feeds directly into the cultures of shame, silence and stigma that exist today. There is however, the beginnings of a shift towards young adult voices being given space to be heard in the public debate surrounding many stigmatised topics including sexual health, consent, porn, sexuality, identity and more. Hopefully this production is able to add to those voices, opening channels of open and respectful discussion.
Describe the format of the show – will we be seeing monologues/duologues etc? Is there a narrative?
We mentioned Greek chorus already – essentially the performers move in and out of the choral format to let characters and narrative emerge. I don’t want to give too much away, so I’d better stop there – I guess you’ll just have to see the show and find out!
Besides the possibly risky/risque nature of the subject matter, what other risks are you taking with the production?
The stage is set in traverse, and all the performers are on stage for the entire performance. They have nowhere to hide from the audience, and the audience have nowhere to hide from each other. Devising a show from scratch feels pretty risky itself, and we’re not exactly presenting it in a traditional form. Also, the fact that Samantha and I chose to embark on this process as co-directors was a big risk. We bring very different experiences, energies and skills to the work, and negotiating those differences has hopefully created something greater than the sum of our parts.
Was the cast completely on board and ready to talk about/perform everything you wanted to bring up with the show? Were there things that were off-limits?
Overall our cast have been incredibly giving and generous, and Samantha and I are so grateful to them for that. Most interestingly, one of our devisers shared with us that they had never watched porn, which definitely shaped some parts of our process. Samantha and I have always been really invested in the safety of our devisers, and we have been able to navigate the diversity of our team through setting tasks that allowed them to choose what they did or did not share with us. In terms of performed material, the distinction between the performer as themselves and the characters they are portraying is really important, and provides healthy distance between the material and the individual. It is acting after all.
Tissue is at The Blue Room from 8 – 26 November. For more information and tickets, visit the Blue Room website here.