Keeler at the Charing Cross Theatre
Keeler is a biographical play based on the story of Christine Keeler, the face – and legs – of the biggest political sex scandal of the 60s. It is aimed at those who remember her, but does well introducing her to those who don’t.
The problem with Keeler is that it isn’t half as sexy as it thinks it is. The opening sequence, depicting Keeler’s showgirl past, looks like it’s been devised by a celibate septuagenarian; the production’s flyer suggests there will be bags more nudity and gratuitous sex than there actually is. By today’s standards it’s relatively tame – but this is the point: written by Gill Adams, with the artistic involvement of Keeler herself, the show aims to tell it like it was and not how the media made it out to be. In reality there was a lot more talking and a lot more clothing.
Despite its relative demureness, Keeler manages to highlight a number of issues prevalent in 60s culture as well as today. It is both a feminist nightmare and a field day, drawing attention to how young women became involved with significant male political figures, viewed as objects to be kept and looked at. There is a scene where Keeler unwillingly has sex, yet does not resist – a means of self-preservation or perhaps remaining in control when very much out of it. There is no doubt that this moment addresses something incredibly relevant and pressing in contemporary society, but there are wider points of discussion here that are brushed aside in order to stay on the chronological track.
As an introduction to the story of Christine Keeler and Secretary of State for War John Profumo, the play lacks the sensationalism that the story once had. Projections of headlines throughout reveal to the audience exactly how the media and the public reacted to the scandal in its day, but ultimately this fails to evoke the outrage and furore the exposé created in its time. To be “desensitised” is a notion much thrown about recently, but it rightly describes how many of us – consumers of WAG culture, political sex scandals, Page 3 girls and the chronicles of Silvio Berlusconi – feel when presented with a story such as Keeler’s.
Keeler is at Charing Cross Theatre until 14th December 2013. For further information or to book visit the show’s website here.