So. A Russian prostitute has been murdered in a spectacularly brutal way for attempting to inform on her “owner”. The British police track down the killer in Germany because his sperm was in her hair: he'd wanked on her head whilst it was held in a vice, then sawed her head off with a blunt hacksaw. Whilst she was alive. But he isn't the big baddie. No, that's his Estonian boss, who made him do it.
Now we meet the boss, and his gang of sex-traffickers. They discuss the realities of market capitalism: the fact that very soon the traffic will be going in the opposite direction. They'll be getting girls from Amsterdam, Berlin and London, and selling them to Beijing, Moscow and Rio de Janiero. In between, they mock the silent prostitute who sits in the room with them: calling her stupid, giving her a name like a dog, discussing the smell of her. Then they're violent towards her.
Does this sound like fun entertainment yet?
I mean, we've seen something a bit like this before, right? We've had ordinary, sordid, naturalistic versions of this story before. On stage. On TV. I myself got into a terrible state by stupidly watching the whole of Abi Morgan's Sex Traffic in one go whilst on my own, with no-one to reassure me that no, all men do not despise all women. All women are not helpless, silent, at the mercy of whoever's the strongest and most violent.
Ah, but this is different. This is a brilliant, genre-changing, horribly funny, nightmarish version of the story. It's been made as an international collaboration between three amazing companies.
So the predatory men sometimes wear wolf masks. The mostly silent women sometimes wear deer head-dresses. People sing, and dance. The blonde, musclar Estonian gang come on like some kind of Aryan fantasy in white vests and boxing gloves, and beat hell out of the set whilst having their chat about market capitalism. The silent prostitute in the corner is wearing a very expensive and restrained green silk dress and carrying a silver platter. When the men talk about getting girls from London, they clock the audience, checking out some of the women and smirking at us. A chunk of the audience giggles at their theatrical naughtiness.
Or perhaps at the idea of being trafficked by these men. Because that would be great fun, hey? When they're violent towards you, they just spit cucumber at you, or stamp on it in a theatrical demonstration of violence. It's not actual violence. No women were harmed in the making of this play. It's all just a play, Sarah. Stop taking it so fucking seriously.
So I left. I walked out from the front row and went home. And I wish I'd gone earlier, because then I would have fewer of these images in my mind. And I would feel less disturbed about what all those middle-aged middle-class white men who made that piece of work really feel about women. When they put eleven strong male actors on stage, of all ages, shapes and sizes, and only two young, slim, beautiful and mostly silent women. When they let the men on stage look at me the way the scary men on street corners in Brixton sometimes look at me when I walk home late at night. When they fill my head with horror. And give me no hope.