The grubby goings-on in the offices of glossy magazines are thoroughly explored in Red Stitch’s final play for 2013, UK writer Lucy Kirkwood’s NSFW (Not Safe For Work).
Actor Matthew Whitty plays Sam, an intern starting on the bottom rung of sleazy lad’s mag Doghouse.
As in the real world, in NSFW these tawdry magazines are a dying breed, and Doghouse editor Aiden is beginning to get desperate in his attempts to boost circulation.
“You find out pretty soon that their rivals have just closed down, and they’re really on their knees too. They’re not only fighting against technological advancements, but an economic downturn as well,” Whitty told the Star Observer.
In an effort to drum up publicity – and sales – Aiden charges his team to find a new amateur page three girl from amongst their readership. Before long, journalism degree graduate Sam finds his job is by and large “judging tit-shots”.
“There are no complaints because with the world the way it is at the moment: coming out of uni in the UK, you take what you can get. Not everyone is writing front page for the Guardian, although you would love to be. For many of the people at Doghouse, their job is all that was available for them.”
When the page-three campaign backfires spectacularly, Sam seeks refuge in what he assumes will be a more dignified workplace – a fictional women’s magazine called Electra. However, attending his first job interview, he soon realises that Doghouse and Electra aren’t necessarily all that different.
“It’s interesting, because you get to see where the differences are and where the continuity is between a men’s and a women’s magazine – how the two respective worlds treat women. Things like respectfulness, acceptance of women’s bodies – the two magazines have more in common than he might have thought. When they’ve got pictures of women every week with their cellulite circled, how does that affect the everyday woman?”
Whitty admitted the Red Stitch rehearsal room had been a flurry of trash mags in recent weeks – all for research purposes, of course. Director Tanya Dickson had brought a stack of the UK’s dodgiest glossies home from a recent trip, and the cast had also sought out journalists who’ve worked in tabloid media and have since written about their experiences.
And where do we leave Sam by play’s end? Perhaps a career change is in order after such a bumpy entrance into the world of magazine publishing?
“I’m sure he’d love to go live on a farm somehwere, but how viable is that? It’s a very realistic play, and idealism can only get you so far in the world,” Whitty sighed.