Sluts with Consoles is the first show from grassroots feminist theatre company Dogmouth Theatre, and an accurate depiction of the two male-gazed Gamer Girl archetypes. Alice Robb is Player 1, performing the traits of what Japanese media would describe as moe – adorable, almost too youthful, playing on easy mode. Alice Flynn is Player 2 – “not like other girls”, treated as one of the boys until she takes off her metaphorical helmet.
Set up as a multi-level video game on a TV screen, the main bulk of the story involves enactments of the typical Gamer Girl life-cycle, from both the players’ singular and shared point-of-view. Starting with the gift-giving of a Nintendo Wii on their 8th birthday, the characters then reach adolescence, sexualisation and the ability to be patriarchally judged. Once the GamerGate scandal in 2014 highlights the inequalities and harassment of the gaming industry, the protagonists become divided, as the conditions of being a Gamer Girl through the eyes of men prove a no-win situation.
Interspersed between those “levels” are meta-dialogues between the two players. It’s this format that marks the show’s biggest flaw. The differences between Robb’s sex-object streamer and Flynn’s disillusioned tomboy are nigh-on irrelevant until the characters reach adulthood, as the main narrative switches from a shared perspective to Player 2’s sole point-of-view.
During one such dialogue just before the diverge, the now-sentient TV calls out: “Why are you talking to each other between levels? This is not your prerogative.” When that moment happened during my showing, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was wondering “why?” until they themselves said “why?” – then they immediately addressed the “why”. The setup just needs added context, otherwise the dialogues end up seeming like filler.
Despite that, and the repetitive cries of “it’s a video game! It’s not real!” padding the script, the show is awesome. Flynn and Robb are vibrant and energetic performers – during a scene based on the game Call of Duty, Flynn dons a balaclava and sprints around the Studio, flinging themselves onto audience members and making me flinch as I dread getting hit on the head by a toy gun. I also want to shout out the technician that night, who did an absolutely remarkable job given my performance was their second ever show doing tech.
To sum things up, Sluts with Consoles is an enjoyable commentary around the stereotypes of women in gaming, flawed by a script that often verges on basic and an indecisive perspective. Many gamers use multiple screens to play, and the Sluts with Consoles experience would be greatly enhanced with that – one for both players.
VAULT Festival 2023 runs Tuesday 24th January to Sunday 19th March, full listings and ticket information can be found here.
This review was written by a participant of the VAULT Festival New Critics Programme in partnership with Theatre Weekly. For more information about the VAULT Festival New Critics Programme, and all of our 2023 participants, please visit: https://vaultfestival.com/new-critics-programme/