One-woman play in Toronto offers a strong performance, disappointing story
Georgina Beaty gives a good performance, playing Kylie as well as a vast array of characters she interacts with. The production values are high and the storytelling is strong, but unfortunately the story itself is a tired cliché that only perpetuates the stigmatization of sex work.
The show started off with promise, although there were a few hints as to the direction it would ultimately take. For example, early on Kyle makes a “joke” about how you won’t find any sympathy from a room full of people who make porn for a living. I know a number of people who make porn for a living and they have lots of sympathy, plus other human emotions. Not in Stitch, where everyone in porn is a sleazeball, except for Kylie herself, who is damaged goods.
But Kylie is also a loving mother struggling with the disapproval of her own mother, Diane, who has become ultra-religious. This could have been a play about the injustice of a society that consumes pornography yet oppresses the women who are central to its existence. Diane has Kylie’s child taken away, and that is a real risk for people who do sex work, even though they provide stable, caring homes. But people in power hear “porn” or “prostitution” and they immediately think drugs, and sex in front of the children, and other forms of irresponsibility. It’s an automatic association because it’s the persistent stereotype about sex workers, and this show just propagates it further.
Because in Stitch, Kylie is a drug addict, who drives intoxicated, leaves her movies where her kid can find them, and shows up an hour late to her custody hearing wearing a miniskirt. Kylie is a disaster, and this play doesn’t let her be anything more, even though it has such good storytelling technique.
An example of such technique is that Kylie’s yeast infection is a character of her own, a smoking wisecracker who voices Kylie’s insecurities. We all have – or some of us do, I know I do – that whisper in our heads that only speaks of the worst possible outcome in every situation. However, in Stitch, it’s also problematic as the infection is framed as a result of her porn work: as if office workers, baristas, doctors, anyone with a vagina really, hasn’t had a yeast infection. They can be passed on via sexual contact, but it’s rare, and they are not an STI, so this framing just fills out the stereotype that sex workers are all diseased.
The staging was excellent, and Beaty’s physical ability was impressive. Whether she was playing a “forcible entry” (i.e. rape) scene in a movie, or grinding on a producer’s lap, she made the invisible bodies interacting with her seem real.
In terms of verbal distinctions between characters, my companion and I both found that we weren’t sure who was talking a few times, but only a few, and there were a huge number of ancillary characters for Beaty to manage.
I also loved the production design: lighting and sound worked together to create locations and moods very well. There were strong dramatic moments that would have been very powerful had I not found the content of the story to be politically and ethically repugnant.
- Stitch plays at Aki Studio, at Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas Street East) until June 14
- Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm
- Tickets prices range from $15 to $25
- Purchase tickets online at www.nativeearth.ca or by calling 416.531.1402
Photo of Georgina Beaty provided by the compay