Naughty will make you uncomfortable. This clowning piece confronting the hyper sexualistion of young girls had me squirming in my chair and laughing out loud, but never at the same time.
Anna Marie Simonsen plays a clown who avoids being any one thing. She is part baby, part woman, part child. She is sometimes a sulking teenager and sometimes just an actor. We’re reminded of this hen she breaks the fourth wall in character to reprimand her tech operator for messing up a cue. The performer’s expertise was demonstrated when, in Crypt at VAULT Festival, the trains rattled overhead and Anna Marie flawlessly incorporated her annoyance at the noise into the piece.
Naughty is advertised as an exploration of the hyper-sexualisation of girls and the infantilisation of women. The character is dressed like a five year old; mostly in pink. She’s wearing crocs, a tutu and a plastic toy crown by the end. She wheels onto stage on a Razor scooter with glee. The character is unnamed and mostly non-verbal. She moves like a child for most of the piece which includes reaching into her shorts and digging around to find an item left for safe keeping, and then picking her nose.
The character is comical and skillfully cultivates a playful relationship with the audience. When she plucks some men from the audience and pulls them onto the stage it’s hilarious to see her embarrass them with tricks. Anna Marie Simonsen is an accomplished clown who can read and play with her audience very well.
The pay off for her characterisation comes when Dangerous Woman by Ariana Grande blasts through the speakers and the girl on stage starts to dance to the sexy song. Though her movements remain childlike the message is clear: we are seeing the blurring of the lines between girl and woman. Throughout the play we see the character cycle through womanhood: boobs, periods, babies, all the while dressed as a toddler.
However, to me the piece felt like more of an examination of girlhood and femininity. Naughty presents us with a young female character who wants to grow up too fast because she is behaving as both girl and woman. She mirrors the way in which society socialises girls to aspire to be mothers, while boys are encouraged to be anything they can set their mind to. A pink toy oven on stage is a clear symbol of the unavoidable and constant pressure on girls to mature quicker and to be subservient and domestic.
I could sense the troubling themes of the over-sexualisation of girls and the infantilisation of woman cropping up throughout the play, but I was left wanting more from Naughty. I wanted to be more shocked or more horrified, more impressed or more moved. With such distressing and serious themes taking shape in the form of clowning, I expected the boundaries to be pushed further.
I would have appreciated a content warning for myself and any other misophonics in the audience for a prolonged section of chewing – but I can let them off for this!
Overall, the piece was laugh out loud funny, but lacking a clear message.
Recommended Drink: White Russian. Milk and vodka. Should make you as uncomfortable as the themes in this play made me.
Naughty has finished its run at VAULT festival, but you can check out www.annamariesimonsen.com for tickets to see Simonsen’s other show, Naughty Cabaret, in Oslo on 16th February.