LOS ANGELES—The Guardian’s Brian Logan has a piece today on the theme of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival Fringe, of which he writes, “Some people say it's Nazis, but I say it's porn.” He adds, “To me, the standout subject is clear, and it's porn – or more precisely, the anxiety that the ubiquity of online porn and sexualized imagery is corrupting how we (and especially young people) consider sex and gender.”
That immediate characterization of porn as corrupting sets the tone for the piece, however, and makes one wonder if the Logan’s experience at the Festival, which is headed into the homestretch of its August run, is being sifted through the distorted lens of Prime Minister Cameron’s vaunted filters.
Indeed, the event usually offers up well over 2,500 shows, which makes charting a unifying theme a tall order, to say the least. Logan cites a palmful of shows to bolster his argument about the event’s overall porn theme, or more precisely, its anti-porn theme.
“Exhibit A is Bridget Christie's terrific show, a large section of which covers Christie's campaign to remove explicit lads' mags from newsagent shelves," he explains. "Elsewhere, Brett Goldstein's whole show is about his worry that porn is alienating us from real sex, and he ends it with a vow of porn abstinence. Mark Thomas has a section in 100 Minor Acts of Dissent and which he and his fellow activists target printed smut. Alfie Brown's focusing on the same subject.”
Logan has also noticed another Fringe trend that he says goes hand in hand, as it were, with the porn. “This has been the most female-dominated Fringe comedy program I can remember – most of the best shows I've seen have been by women. And protests at porn and sexualization go hand in hand with a resurgent feminist sensibility in the culture at large.”
He also mentions another more balanced production, called Ban This Filth!, “an intriguing event staged by the Scottish novelist Alan Bissett” in which he includes “extracts from the writings of the radical feminist Andrea Dworkin. Bissett plays Dworkin straight, and her ideas about porn and the oppression of women begin to affect and complicate the sexual adventures of our narrator, with which they are intercut. That would be rich enough – and Bissett is such a convivial and crafty performer, we want to hear every word he says. But the closing stages add another, vital dimension, as Bissett finds his new anti-porn ideas challenged online by women who work in the sex industry. Their voices gate-crash the show, which is both funny – as Bissett's radical feminist pretensions are needled – and profound, as the difficulty is laid bare of reaching black-and-white conclusions on this monster issue.”
Despite his somewhat overwrought bias against porn, Logan says of the Bissett piece, “It's a super show, all the better for defining its own language somewhere between staged reading and confessional, comedy and theatre.”