By Joeann Murphy
A 10-minute play put on in a caravan stunned Essex students last month with its frank approach to sexual harassment and consent.
The Caravan Theatre was parked outside the university student centre – with room for an audience of eight for each performance of the short play, Can’t Touch This.
Two actresses used only body language to indicate their set changes.
“It’s a compliment!” says one of the actresses as she’s being groped and touched by the other actress, playing a random guy in a club, – even though she feels uncomfortable.
The topic of the play is the very close-to-home issue of sexual harassment. Based on Fresher’s Week, the show portrays older students making sexist jokes about women.
The artistic director of Caravan Theatre, Cassie Catchpole, 31, is an Essex drama graduate. She said: “The show addresses issues of harassment and consent. I wanted to make these shows accessible for students.”
She said that the inspiration for Can’t Touch This came from her experience of the blurred lines and boundaries in student circles on the difference between what is normality and what is going too far.
Speaking with a few ex-students who were watching the play, Fahima Ghoni, 23, said: “You’re unsure if it’s these acts are acceptable or not. In my head, I think – it is not that bad, worse could happen – it’s not like I was raped.”
According to a 2010 survey by the National Union of Students, one in seven female university students has experienced a serious physical or sexual assault during their time as a student. Of the women seriously sexually assaulted during their time at university, “only 4 per cent reported it to their higher education institution and only 10 percent reported to the police”, the survey said.