Five Encounters on a Site Called Craigslist was showing as part of PUSH Festival and definitely pushed the boundaries of theatre.
Once again HOME was buzzing with people. On a Monday night. I know?! It’s still refreshing to see this cultural attraction oozing popularity. The venue might be new to Manchester but it’s soon becoming the beacon for cultural socialising. Ok, enough gushing… on to the review.
I was both apprehensive and intrigued by the title of this show. If you don’t already know, Craigslist is an American classified ads site where you can sell and promote almost anything. From shifting products to property and sharing jobs or events, this website is your one stop shop. And one popular section is selling sexual services. Yes, you heard me.
As soon as we entered the theatre Sam, the lead and only actor, immediately put us at ease. He encouraged us to take off our shoes and sprawl across the cushioned benches whilst he chatted with members of the audience. It immediately felt comfortable and intimate. Like visiting a friends house waiting to share your juicy secrets.
Sam introduced the premise of the show. To share five of his sexual encounters on Craigslist. In detail. But as you know, it takes two to tango. Or in this case 50 or more, as the audience had a starring part to play in the exchange.
Each volunteer interaction was different. Some lighthearted and romantic. Some uncomfortable and awkward. A reflection of his encounters? Or just the outcome of a new approach to theatre? From peeling a carrot in an act of Foley to audio instructions on a headset and contributing messages using pen and paper, it was an interesting and extremely personal experiment.
Sam threw an unexpected twist in to the narrative by contemplating elements of psychology. He shared Arthur Aron’s research called The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness; a study into accelerating the intimacy between two strangers. That’s a bit of a mouthful don’t you think? Worry not, the New York Times helpfully translated it into something much more palatable, The 36 Questions That Lead To Love.
The questions gain in depth and momentum to explore a strangers inner thoughts and feelings. This D&M, or for you non cool cats, deep and meaningful conversation, is said to lead to love. Sam covered some of these questions with a member of the audience in a romantic picnic scene. They fed each other grapes and shared answers as if there wasn’t a room full of strangers. It was intense and gentle and brave.
It’s clear Sam’s encounters sharply contrast to this wishful study. He is removed from his sexual experiences. It’s merely a means of instant pleasure. It’s an exchange as transient as a financial transaction. No strings attached. Or no strings at all. Maybe this is the healthiest way to use the site? Maybe I’m reading too much into his story? Who knows. Either way I’m thinking.
Sam is a gripping storyteller willing to (literally) strip bare his sexual experiences and complicated emotions. He gives a fascinating and thought provoking insight into a world many know nothing about. Go outside your comfort zone and give this interactive performance a try!
What do you think about the 36 questions? Would you have volunteered in this show? Have you ever used Craigslist? Speak to me in the comments!
Find out more about the company’s work here
Browse HOME for more shows as part of PUSH Festival.