Review: Sticky Door, VAULT Festival

Katie Arnstein’s heartbreakingly funny show about “sex, stigma and cystitis” is a triumphantly true retelling of her experiences with men and her sexual encounters that have shaped who she is now. Being the third show in the series ‘It’s a Girl’, this piece encompasses the hilarity of female stand-up, the fun and beauty of live music and the harrowing reality of the abuse women receive in modern society at the expense of their sexual endeavours. The show goes through stages of style and form, ranging from storytelling to ukulele numbers, all with a constant undertone of comedy and truthfulness. 

It is not difficult fall in love with Arnstein’s character, and her both humble and empowering approach to representing the twenty-something female trying to survive alone in London takes her audiences on a whirlwind journey through many serious emotions and events. She sets up the piece’s structure by taking audiences through a month by month account of her romantic and sexual experiences throughout the year, all aiming to fulfil her 2014 resolutions to become ‘the new me’ that we all attempt to be. Her punchy one-liners about the time period she is taking you back to and her ability to keep the piece grounded and relevant all add to the audience being in the palm of her hand, while she herself is at the butt of her own jokes. Her delivery of lines and witty word play keep the piece’s pace super punchy and keeps audiences constantly engaged, almost to the extent that if you let your mind wander for more than ten seconds you’ll have missed a joke. 

The piece takes a turn from simply being an explanation from Arnstein in her empowering attempt to become “the Optimus Prime of sex”, (enabled by her hilarious recount of bedside activity and the realistic but painful truth of urinary tract infections), and shifts into an emotional portrayal of her worsening mental health, and her downward spiral into isolation and anxiety. This subtle but harrowing transition from a comedic, “let’s talk about sex”-style show to a genuinely sad yet far too common retelling of a females dependency on males leading to a detrimental and dangerous strain on Arnstein’s sense of reality, highlights all of the overwhelming reasons who shows like and about this should be made. The unexpected emotional flares and shocking events the audiences are presented with emphasises the vulnerability that young women are coping with every day simply in attempts to live as the best versions of themselves. Arnstein manages to sufficiently outline the problems within this weighty social construct women have fallen into, whilst softening the experience of these issues being laid out in front an audience through the piece serving as a heart-warming insight into her erratic but realistic life. 

You will laugh a lot and maybe cry more, as the truth and pain that carries this piece, met with the genius comedy and self-deprecation of Arnstein is the shift of minds that is still needed in the current climate of the view of women, and teaches the lesson that we still need to be reminded of, that it is okay not to be okay all of the time.

‘Sticky Door ’is playing The Cage theatre at the Vaults festival until the 16 February. For more information and tickets, see the VAULT Festival website.