Written for CultureWars.org.uk
The title of Penelope Skinner's new play isn't so much provocative as cleverly punning. This hour long monologue traces the sexual history of a young woman, F, from the present day back to the point where she loses her virginity. The title, however, could well be referring to the pretty bleak circumstances in which our heroine finds herself - nursing a spiralling cocaine habit, working in a lap-dancing club, and sleeping with men for money, F's life is indeed looking pretty fucked.
By starting at this bleak beginning and tracing her life back through her series of sexual partners, there is a sense that the play is seeking to find the roots of this ending in the earlier encounters. It's a fair enough m.o., but starting at the end lends the tale a weight of fatality. On top of this, at the beginning of each scene F holds up a little card with the date of the scene, when it happened in relation to the last scene (two years earlier. etc.), and then folding the card back over, reveals a categorisation of F's role as, variously, “Girlfriend”, “Bitch”, “Whore”, “Virgin” and so on. As these accumulate around the stage, it all starts to feel a bit like a lesson in seventies feminism.
These are minor gripes in the face of what is an entertaining, witty and hugely enjoyable bit of writing, however. For the most part, Skinner's script is canny and acute as well as boasting a range of laugh-out-loud jokes. While F comes across as someone who would be quite annoying as a friend, her observations on men, sexuality and life in general often ring horribly true, as does her propensity for disastrous relationships.
Aside from the exciting script, the other main reason to go and see Fucked is the excellent performance from Becci Gemmell. She and director Daniel Goldman have created one of those monologue performances that end up surprising you when only one person comes onto a bare stage at the end for the curtain call. Such is the range and acuity of Gemmell's characterisations, married to her frenetic movement around the space, that the mind vividly fills in the gaps - as with a radio play - leaving a vivid and lasting impression of the world she has created.