“Doing it and enjoying it”: Slut is opening at Northern Light

Michelle Todd in Slut, Northern Light Theatre. Photo by Epic Photography.

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

“I’m just having fun being single. Is that a crime?”

In the, er, tart little solo comedy that opens Friday at Northern Light Theatre, we meet a middle-aged accountant whose zest for sex, and generous-mindedness about spreading the joy around, puts her up against her disapproving neighbours.

She gets accused of running a brothel — until she can prove she’s a slut. Which is the name of the play, by the Canadian-born American-based playwright Brenda McFarlane, that bookends Northern Light’s “Virgin, Whore, And Something In-Between” season that began with Colm Toíbín’s The Testament of Mary, followed by Cat Walsh’s Do This In Remembrance Of Me.

“It’s the pleasure she takes in sex, the enjoyment, that gets her into trouble,” sighs actor/playwright Michelle Todd, who stars as Matilda in a comedy she calls “sweet, funny, and poignant.”

“It’s so interesting; if you’re a woman who enjoys sex outside long-term commitment, you’re either a victim or a predator. That’s the perception….” Slut, she says of the play (which premiered at the 2000 Toronto Fringe), deals with hypocrisy, the double-standard and shame attached to women’s sexuality.

Well before #MeToo and its associated resistance and empowerment movement, Todd had read Slut at the invitation of NLT’s Trevor Schmidt. She’d been engaged by the puckish way it confronts slut-shaming, and she’d found herself in the role of the woman who’s surprised, and perplexed, to find herself in jail, as Slut opens, trying to explain her perspective on having sex, and lots of it. 

“Matilda’s kind of feminism isn’t a flag-carrying thing; it isn’t prescriptive,” says Todd of the heroine of Slut. “She doesn’t have an edge; there’s an innocence about her.” Thirty-something herself, and the mother of two mixed-race sons (her mom is Filipina, her dad Jamaican), Todd knows what it’s like to come up against racial attitudinizing. Her own solo memoir Deep Fried Curried Perogies, played Kitchener’s multi-cultural MT Space Theatre last May; she’s working on a sequel.

And the deck is stacked against female sexuality unhinged from commitment. She thinks about the double-standards she’d come up against in her own high school years. “It starts that young,” she sighs. “Guys can sleep around and they’re studs. Girls sleep around and they’re sluts…. If you’re ‘doing it’ you’re troubled. If you’re ‘doing it’ and enjoying it, you’re a slut.”

The enjoyment is a deal-breaker. “And what’s ‘a lot’ anyhow, when it comes to sex?” Todd poses the question and laughs. Social attitudes have a certain absurdly arbitrary mathematical equation to them, as she points out. “What duration does it have to be before it’s ‘a relationship’? How do you define ‘active’? Is there a quota? People attach to the numbers….”

Slut is a word with reverb, she says. And it’s the centrepiece of Schmidt’s design.“If there’s no word for ‘sexual and free’ when you’re a women, ‘slut’ I guess will have to do.” 

PREVIEW

Slut

Theatre: Northern Light

Written by: Brenda McFarlane

Directed by: Trevor Schmidt

Starring: Michelle Todd

Where: PCL Studio Theatre, ATB Financial Arts Barns 10330 84 Ave.

Running: Friday through April 14

Tickets: 780-471-1586, northernlighttheatre.com

  

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