A story set in 2020 when sexual harassment culture is represented by a party of generic men called Keith sounds like it’ll be a riot. What Sex Waitress delivers is a riot, but not entirely the hilarious kind.
Lila (Melanie Simpson) and Agnes (Nimra Khan) bond when they end up in the same jail cell after an anti-Keith protest. Watched by a perverted guard-Keith who masturbates outside their cell, things quickly become as explicit as they can be. Agnes is raped by him and in a later scene there’s excrement. It's fast paced and far-fetched.
The ensuing scenes cover several feminist issues heavily discussed on social media in the last 12 months. But rather than feeling like a response to these discussions, Sex Waitress feels like a curt description of them. There are moments of idiosyncratic originality and humour in Ellie Rowland-Callanan's text. But, although it admirably aims to imagine the liberation of its female characters, this endeavour seems undermined by its flippant tone. We also need to ask where the value lies in staging sexual violence if a show is aiming to challenge it.
Overall, it's just not affecting enough – it’s difficult to feel enraged or empowered by the production. It is an interesting idea but one that needs more time to unfurl. Strong central performances are let down by unimaginative technical aspects. While the boldness of its female characters is notable, the idiosyncratic text doesn't quite meet the challenge of the seriousness of the subject matter.