Clickbait play explores business of 'amateur porn'
Clickbait, a play about three sisters who see a business opportunity in the world of online porn, has its premiere this week. Writer Milly Thomas explains how it explores the line between sexual empowerment and exploitation.
"I'm not out to deliberately provoke," says Milly Thomas of her latest work, "but people may find some of it uncomfortable."
The playwright and actress had the idea for Clickbait after the media storm in 2014 over the video posted online of a female holidaymaker performing sex acts in a nightclub in Magaluf.
"I remember reading about it, and then seeing people I liked and respected on Facebook discussing this girl in ways I found deeply upsetting," she says.
"The more I thought about it, the more it became about how the dialogue about women and sex is broken somewhere - and I don't know where."
Clickbait, which opens at London's Theatre 503 venue on Friday, tells the story of Nicola - a young woman who has become the unwitting star of a sex tape while on holiday.
Threatened by a blackmailer on her return home, she decides to take control of the situation and post it online herself.
Sensing a business opportunity, she and her two sisters open a network of private booths that redefine the idea of "amateur porn".
Georgia Groome, star of the 2008 film Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, leads the five-strong cast as Nicola.
The play reunites Thomas with Holly Race Roughan, the director of her 2014 play A First World Problem, which ran at the same fringe venue.
Clickbait asks questions such as when does sex become pornography? And what can a victim do once they have inadvertently become someone else's porn?
Thomas cites a friend of hers who found photos of herself on her boyfriend's phone that she did not know had been taken.
"Amateur is one of the fastest growing categories of porn," she says.
"The play is set in the not-too-distant future, where there are photo booths dotted around where you can make a sex tape and leave with it on a USB.
"On the one hand, it's utterly ludicrous.
"Yet it really doesn't feel a million miles away.
"There is something so voyeuristic about the way we live now.
"In amateur porn, you are the product and the consumer."
Thomas is not sure what the reaction will be to her play but has already noticed Nicola is a divisive character.
She says: "At the auditions, some people would come in and say she is a hero, she is empowering and others would say they cannot stand her.
"As a playwright, that is thrilling.
"Someone once gave me a piece of writing advice - if you are making art and the whole world loves it, then you have got a problem.
"If there is a point I'm trying to make, it is that the sex should not be the problem, it is how we deal with sex that is the problem.
"Provided we are not hurting people, it should not be a problem."
Thomas is adamant her story about internet porn is ideal for the stage.
"This could easily have been a film, but I didn't want it to be, because a screen can desensitise things," she says.
"I want people to sit in a room where they cannot leave, they cannot switch it off, they cannot get up and make a cup of tea.
"I don't want to make people uncomfortable to the point of not being able to absorb anything.
"I just want people to have a cracking night at the theatre that worms away at them for a while."
Clickbait is at Theatre 503 until 13 February.