Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Bryony Cole and Grace Carroll: Wet

By | Published on Thursday 26 April 2018

Coming up at Theatre N16 is a new play about a pair of friends who decide to make a feminist porn film, which therefore broaches the topic of female sexuality and desire from a rather interesting angle.

I was keen to find out more about the show – what informed it, and what inspired it – so I spoke to its creators, Bryony Cole and Grace Carroll.

CM: Can you start by telling us the premise of the show? What story does it tell?
GC: The premise of the story is that two friends, Holly and Sophie, who are really broke and quite frustrated with their lives, decide to make a feminist porn film. Whilst writing the film, they make some discoveries about their own  sexuality and desires. It tells the story of two young women coming to terms with their themselves, and learning to become vulnerable and honest with their feelings.

BC: It is also a story about sexual relationships in general and an honest look at how it is to be a woman in today’s world.

CM: What themes does the play explore?
BC: Sex, love, lust, insecurities, pleasure, female friendships and the impact porn is having on us.

GC: The play ended up exploring a lot of themes that we didn’t initially set out to explore. Intimate justice: which is a women’s right to experience orgasm and joy during sex; became a really big theme throughout the play. I think a lot of women think sex is more for the man, or prioritise his own enjoyment over their own.

CM: What made you want to do a show exploring these subjects?
BC: The idea that so many things to do with sex and our bodies is ‘taboo,’ even when talking with our closest friends. Luckily Grace and I have a very close and honest relationship with one another so we had a frank conversation about porn and sex before we started writing ‘Wet’. It seemed to us that so many of our female friends were itching to talk about sex in an honest way, and we thought it would be brilliant to write a play dealing with these issues. We wanted a platform to have a frank (and funny) conversation about women and their relationship with sex, and also themselves.

GC: When we first conceived this idea and I was talking about it with my friends, it just became clear women wanted to talk about these things. Whether they had problems enjoying sex, or worry that you’re not doing something right, or that they had too many partners or not enough. I think a lot of women feel a lot of pressure in that area of their life, so we wanted to explore that. I think porn has had a big influence on the way people have sex, even for someone who has never even watched it. Those images of women have trickled down into popular culture and then influenced our personal lives. I think we live in a society that is kind of obsessed with sex but never wants to talk about it. I wanted to see a play that had two girls talking about sex the way me and my friends talk about sex in a way that was in depth but funny.

CM: What research did you do before creating the show, and what did you discover? How did your research inform the project?
GC: The first thing we did was to create a survey asking women about their views on porn and we sent it out, thinking that we’d only get responses from a couple of our friends at most, and we got over 140 responses, which is insane. We got really varied responses from a huge age range of women, some who thought porn was inherently bad, some who thought it was totally fine. Most women fell somewhere in the middle of this spectrum; they recognised porn will always exist in some capacity, but they wished that it portrayed sex in a more authentic way. Trust and intimacy became a really big theme in the play after that.

BC: We also tried to read as much as we could about the subject. I read this amazing book Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape by Peggy Orenstein (that I definitely recommend to everyone) and it totally changed my thinking on how young women are sexualised in today’s society. Orenstein looks at how young women are completely short-changed to be living in a society where we’re expected to look and be sexy all the time but we still aren’t confident enough to ask for certain things in our own sex lives. I was talking to a woman recently and she was complaining that her boyfriend wouldn’t do certain things in bed and I suggested that she ask him to. She said she didn’t want to offend him. I think there’s this prevailing idea that women’s enjoyment and happiness isn’t as important as male ego, and that manifests itself in so many area’s of our lives, but in no other place is it as prevalent as in our sex lives.

CM: Who do you think this show will appeal to? Who do you hope to reach out to?
BC: We hope everyone! Comedy’s such a great way to connect with people and raise importance issues in a more relaxed and non-judgemental way. Ultimately, we want to reach out to women in the hope they leave the theatre feeling better about themselves and supported as women.

GC: I mean it’s about young women, so we think that’s who it’ll appeal to. My main goal is to help young women feel less weird and alone. I think if I saw this play when I was a lot younger it could have helped me get past a lot of insecurities. I also hope men come and see it too, since I think they can hopefully learn a lot about women and what goes through our minds during sex. There’s a strong coming of age storyline so anyone who has been though the process of figuring out who you are, what you like, what you want to do, I think you could enjoy it. Also a lot of people have found it funny, so hopefully people who like comedy will enjoy it.

CM: It seems to me that there’s weird climate with porn at the moment. People seem in general to have become more accepting of it, yet I think many are concerned that for the most part it’s increasingly violent and misogynistic. How do you think things will progress from here?
GC: I really don’t know, I hope that feminist porn where the focus is on the women’s enjoyment is something that continues to grow and evolve. I don’t think I can personally see a time when there’ll stop being really misogynistic and gross stuff out there (that might be because I’m quite pessimistic). But I think it’s making sure that there is enough positive pro-female stuff out there as well. Content showing women that it’s okay to have pubic hair, or to not have huge boobs, that let women feel good about themselves, and that’s across all media. Janelle Monae’s video for “Pynk,” which recently came out, was a great representation of women and also a celebration of vaginas, a part of ourselves that we often think of as ugly. There’s this bit when she’s in her knickers and we see pubes poking out, little things like that are amazing. We don’t have to crack down on porn to stop the pornification of culture.

CM: Can you tell us about your creative team? Who has been involved in bringing the project together?
GC: Rosemary Maltezos who is our director, is a real visionary. She has a really strong style that will help our story really pop on stage. Our cast – Claire Heverin, Tamsin Newlands and Matt Daniels – have been with us since day one. The character Sophie is basically shaped around Claire, Tamsin is a really intelligent and intuitive actress and Matt is the funniest actor working in London. Together they all have such a great chemistry. They have been fully involved in the development process of ‘Wet’ and are such a joy to work with. They really get what we’re doing and we often work as a collaborative team.

CM: Can you tell us about Screw Productions? How did you come to be making your own company?
GC: I was a writer wanting to produce and put on my own stuff, and Bryony said let’s collaborate on something, so we did it. Bryony was acting and producing a lot of her own stuff, and we were such good friends it just seemed to be a no brainer.

BC: We’re very similar and we have a shorthand way of communicating with one another. We also have a very weird sense of humour, which definitely works when we’re writing comedy. It’s great to be doing this as a little team and collaborating with another like-minded woman. Bouncing ideas back and forth with Grace is one of my favourite things to do! It’s great to create something with someone by your side, as writing can be a lonely world.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have?
GC: We would love to bring it to more theatres all over the country since I feel the story is relatable to everyone.

BC: We’d love to play to audiences all over Europe. I’m actually based in Amsterdam so we’re looking into taking it there in the next year and getting the liberal Dutchies involved.

CM: What’s coming up next for you, after N16?
GC: We’d love to develop the play further and share it with as many people as we can. We really believe in ‘WET’ and think it has real potential to grow.

‘Wet’ is on at Theatre N16 – now in N17 – from 29 Apr-3 May. Click on this link here to book your tickets.

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