Building on the discourse that ensued in January 2018 amidst Aziz Ansari’s allegations of sexual misconduct, Anonymous Is A Woman’s promenade Greyscale is intelligent in form and measured in perspective – but misses a trick by not adequately facilitating the conversation it seems to crave.
An audience of ten spend an equal amount of time with both sides of a Tinder-date-gone-awry. We select the order (allegedly, though it’s difficult to verify when the result’s relayed whilst our eyes are still shut) in which we’ll meet Lou and Jaz: gender-neutral names to facilitate a rotating cast and the added layer of experimentation, one assumes, that may come from mixed- and same-sex pairing variation.
Whilst both parties agree the date didn’t end ‘well’, we learn that each has a significantly – problematically – different perspective about the role (or lack thereof) that consent played in the fall-out. True to its name, Greyscale is about its intricacies, its nuances and its scope for murkiness.
Lou was ‘Lucy’ at my performance, played with real verve by Edie Newman. Contrary to the photo to the right, it was her who my audience had decided to meet in a busy (functioning) bar around the corner from VAULT headquarters. Her monologue, for me, was the far more compelling and rounded of the two – tinged with a quiet but burning (and therefore shattering) anger as much at what she perceived to be a ‘failure’ on her own part (not being able to adequately express her discomfort – for whatever reason – at the time) as at the state of the nation for permitting and even nurturing that associated entitlement in young men.
Prior to it, my group had met Jaz (‘James’ at my show – played by Tom Campion) in a location that failed to define the audience’s role quite so successfully. Crowded around a table with a glass of wine in Lucy’s hand, I was made to feel like a friend who she genuinely would voice her feelings to – in an environment where alcohol and good company does, naturally, encourage it out. Campion had perhaps the harder of the two gigs – faced with the challenge of creating an atmosphere, and audience rapport, around a somewhat awkward semi-circle in the cold. Neither the writing, or his tone of voice, never quite managed to infer who we were supposed to be in relation to him: friends, strangers, even police officers? It’s all a bit unclear to really invest in his perspective (which, incidentally, felt under-explored also).
These individual encounters are sandwiched by a representation of the date itself, which I assume Anonymous Is A Woman consider to be Greyscale‘s centrepiece: a specially-erected shed of sorts missing tiles in its wall, to allow us to peep inside and watch the event unfold ourselves. I understand (and appreciate) the concept here: that, even when both characters are present, we should only ever be able able to view ‘part of the picture’. The awkwardness of peering in, and seeing other eyeballs on the other side of the walls doing the same, perhaps even ‘implicates’ us slightly in our unapologetically voyeuristic role in the proceedings. But despite highly competent acting, something about this scene didn’t quite work for me. I didn’t quite understand the logic of not being able to assess the scene fully – if you don’t want us to be able to see what ‘actually’ happened to ourselves (and rely entirely on the characters’ recounts of it), why show it at all?
Greyscale is a tricky piece to call ‘slight’, as the subject matter – and questions the company are unwaveringly grappling with – are so obviously not. But at 25 minutes, and with an ending that doesn’t adequately facilitate – or even particularly encourage – debate to break out between audience members about their own perspective, the piece feels a little unfinished in this manifestation.
Anonymous Is A Woman might be worth paying a little more thought to its third character (who, interestingly, doesn’t even appear on the cast list at present). That’s a mistake in my opinion, as her involvement (as a facilitator – escorting us from one scene to the next, asking the difficult questions and I assume responsible for encouraging conversations to continue at the end) is surely as significant as our two principal characters, and way transcends the remit of a normal theatre ‘usher’. A little more thinking as to how she fits into the story and/or how her interactions with the audience have a little more resonance could benefit the piece significantly.
There’s a beautiful moment at the very end of Greyscale (at least, the version I saw) – the one real moment of interactivity, where Lou asked a female audience member to check the wording of a text she is about to send back to Jaz. It’s a really smart and beautiful moment, the only time (other than invitations to put our hands up and down) where the company have a chance to open up the conversation and potentially put someone on the spot to shed new light on the situation. It just feels like a missed opportunity that this conversation is not nurtured, and that Lou jumps up at that very moment and runs off into the night.