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Masterpieces 24 April
Masterpieces 25 April

When Trump was caught on tape joking about his lewd attitude towards women, he defended himself by saying it was just “locker room talk”. But talk matters, as is demonstrated in Sarah Daniels’ 1983 play Masterpieces, which was derided by many male critics on its premiere, and we now give a timely revival.

 

In an early scene, set at a dinner party, the men delight in telling sexist jokes about rape in front of the women. But Daniels’ ground-breaking play makes the link between misogynistic jokes and misogynistic actions. Set in pre-internet times when porn came between pages, it also suggests that porn depicting sexual violence against women leads to harrassment and real violence against women.

 

This consciousness-raising story may lack the complexities of 21st-century gender politics, but doesn’t lack impact. Rowena  is a social worker who considers herself happily married and thinks little of the fact that when her job keeps her out late at night she feels afraid of being alone on the streets.

 

When a client is abused and she starts to investigate the pornography that her husband and his friends think is normal, she becomes angry and takes action. “How they must hate us,” she says on seeing one image.

 

 "I’m sick of living in a culture that tolerates violence against women."

 

Daniels’s play, reminds us, that  progress in the way men talk, think about and treat women has been less dramatic than we might think. The men in Masterpieces wear their misogyny like a badge of pride: today, it is more likely to be covert.