Saff is not having a great day. Attacked by her acquaintance Judy, over an alleged – and later triumphantly confirmed – romantic tryst with Judy’s sort-of-boyfriend Oli, she retreats to her home shared with her parents. But this is only the beginning of a chaotic night in middle England’s Dunningham.
Dickless is a one-woman show written by Aisha Josiah, and presented by the Fundamental Theater Company. The show is alternately performed by one of two actresses, and on the night I attended it was Lauren Downie on stage.
The stage is very small and the only prop is a chair, yet at no point did the performance feel confined. Downie is fantastic in both the role of Saff – a larger-than-life woman on the town – and as Oli, the self-confessed ladies’ man who is facing an identity crisis. Downie switches between the roles with confident ease, with a swift tying up of the hair and putting on of a shirt transforming her to Oli. The change is especially striking given that the characters have very different accents and styles of talking.
Saff, a woman who has always used her looks to get what she wants, introduces her life in a brutally honest way – graphically describing her sexual encounter with Oli. With trouble brewing at home, she heads out to help a friend who wants to bottle a guy for spreading malicious falsehoods, and it all begins to go very wrong. The violence described throughout is wincingly extreme, and the audience gasped at a number of the incidents – especially the ones involving animals. The almost casual way in which the story is acted and described is deeply disturbing, and makes for uncomfortable viewing.
Oli, meanwhile, has been having a bad time recently, dealing with a secret drunkenly revealed to him by his mother that forces him to question everything about himself. There is also the matter of him being blackmailed over a photo that he will stop from being released at any costs. The small town world creates connections and conflicts that neither of the two protagonists can escape, as the consequences of their actions enmesh them so tightly together that their futures become inextricably bound.
The narrative ties together all of the characters as events descend into a decidedly Tarantino-esque farce. Downie’s performance is as securely controlled as Josiah’s script is tightly written.