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How I Became a Dominatrix Using Damned Lies and Statistics
Etcetera Theatre
31st July 2018

★★★★☆

Publicity image for THow I Became a Dominatrix Using Damned Lies and Statistics

Photography provided by Vulcanello Productions

You have to be brave to make the transition from theatre critic to playwright - well, either that or know what you're doing. After years of writing about theatre, actually making theatre leaves you open to people getting their own back, so staging anything less than polished isn't really an option. TL Wiswell definitely isn't shy in her chosen subject matter and she seems entirely confident in her decision to bring a BDSM-themed show to Camden. She has perfectly judged her target audience with How I Became A Dominatrix Using Damned Lies And Statistics... a show which, let's face it, probably has the best title at the Camden Fringe this year and is well-suited to a warm and sticky evening crowd at The Etcetera. Nicely played, Wiswell. Both brave and smart, I would posit.

Yes, our inner cynics are screaming that the show has been named to sell tickets - which has worked, it practically sold out before kicking off its three-day run - but even though it's light on numbers and percentages, it's certainly not lacking in kink. You can't accuse the company of misleading anyone on that front. The protagonists of Wiswell's play, married couple Christie (Fleur de Wit) and Scott (Anthony Rhodes), are experimenting with their wilder sides - at least, Christie is. Scott isn't really sure what he's doing, sitting in an auditorium with complete strangers, watching a lesson on caning. BDSM expert Mistress Sunshine (Coral Tarran) gives the couple an introduction into the pleasures of flogging, with the help of eager assistant Russell (Kyran Peet). Whilst Christie's interest in sex has suddenly picked up, Scott is left bewildered rather than turned on by her attempts to explore this new scene. He reluctantly tags along to classes and parties, hoping that his wife will grow bored of it all soon and revert back to her old self, albeit possibly without the "not tonight, dear" comments.

Part-show, part show-and-tell, HIBADUDLAS (now doesn't that roll off the tongue beautifully?) has a bit of an educational bent to it. As well the usual list of cast and crew, the programme includes additional instructions on caning, shibari, further kinky reading and a glossary. (If you knew what shibari was before the Japanese art of tying people up was featured in hit TV series The Good Wife, bonus points for you.) There's nothing particularly graphic or shocking, with the beginners' classes attended by Christie and Scott allowing Wiswell to gently introduce the audience to kink in a way that doesn't feel contrived. With one spouse wholeheartedly embracing this new lifestyle and the other mostly embarrassed and uncomfortable, at least one character always remains relatable to the audience.

Although the shift in tone toward the end of the production feels hurried and somewhat out of place, there's very little else to criticise with Micha Mirto's accomplished direction. The action is wonderfully tight throughout, the pauses superbly-timed for comedic effect and the use of the ensemble as props ranges from clever in places to downright inspired in others. It's all very slickly done, with bloody brilliant deliveries by the four actors. It may not be quite flawless, but HIBADUDLAS is pretty damn close.

HIBADUDLAS is a fun, comedic production that prods tentatively at the fourth wall, but not too hard, leaving it generally intact. It's very self-aware, entertaining and executed in style. And if you don't learn at least a thing or two, you're probably telling another damned lie.

How I Became a Dominatrix Using Damned Lies and Statistics opened on 30th July and runs until 3rd August 2018 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)



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