Adrienne Truscott's Asking for It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy Starring Her Pussy and Little Else! sarabrownphotography

Wearing a blonde wig, and naked from the waist down, Adrienne Truscott dances her way backwards onto the stage. We’re in a very intimate venue that seats 30 people, and there’s no looking away. Throughout the show, Truscott takes swigs of several gin and tonics, points and winks at audience members flirtatiously, and the way she has choreographed the performance forces us to fully confront her body as well as her act.

This is a comedy show about rape, and rape jokes, and the timing for such a show is ripe. After all, “it’s been a big year for rape,” as Truscott tells us, alluding – among other things – to the recent gang-rape case in Mumbai, as well as the controversy surrounding Daniel Tosh, who made comments about rape to a female audience member at a comedy show last year. As Truscott surveys the plethora of comedians who joke about rape, we are prompted to ponder: when, if ever, is it okay to make jokes about this topic?

Weighty though these questions are, the show is emphatically about entertainment. It is filled with cheeky cabaret gags that include teasingly peeling off wigs one at a time and projecting male faces onto the wall, which get hilariously bearded with Truscott’s props. She also delves into surrealist fantasies that highlight how ludicrous it is to rely on a whistle to deter rapists. In a particularly memorable bit of satire, she whimsically muses about how nice it would be if comedians – whose job it is to be funny – would “gang-joke” her into laughing to the point of orgasm, instead of making rape threats at comedy gigs.

I was lucky enough to catch Truscott speaking at a live chat show during the Fringe, where she described the genesis of her show. When she was a university student, on the first day of a seminar for a women and gender studies course, the (male) professor opened by saying that one in four women have been sexually assaulted in their lives. Addressing the women in the room, he then went on to say that based on the statistics, several of them must be rape victims. Truscott’s response, on the other hand, was to turn to the men in the room and say, “Well, by that logic, at least one of you have raped a woman in your lives – so, which one of you is a rapist?”.

This is a point that Truscott makes brilliantly in her show: why are people always so fixated on the victim? The very premise of the show (I direct your attention here to the title) is that Truscott is “asking for it” in all the possible ways, from the way she is (un)dressed, to her tipsy and flirty persona, and yet, during her twenty or so performances at the Fringe, she was not raped a single time. Perhaps it is the rapist who makes a rape happen after all, and maybe there is something pointless in discussing the victim’s circumstances.

This show was an electrifying experience. The audience sat paralysed with wonder as Adrienne Truscott masterfully built up moments of discomfort, and then released the tension with sharp comic energy. It was comedy done in a way I’d never seen before; an incredible, unique achievement.