Who says Tory governments never do anything for the arts? With a single offhand remark, David Cameron (with a little help from Michael Winner) has provided the name for a whole festival of feminist theatre, running at Camden People's Theatre.

Tonight's offering consists of two shows, the first of which is Pretty Ugly by Louise Orwin. Orwin is rather hard to define, something like a performance artist in the Marina Abramovich mould. The inspiration for this show came from her discovery of girls, ranging from eight to sixteen, posting videos of themselves on YouTube and asking complete strangers to rate them as pretty or ugly. The vast majority of the comments underneath were vile, no surprise to anyone who reads the Guardian Online's "Comment is Free" section – the anonymity conferred by the internet doesn't always bring out the best in people.

However, in an age when anorexia and bulimia are growing problems, often encouraged by so-called "thinspiration" websites, disgreeing with adults about the ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange and abusing young girls about their looks are two different things, and Orwin decided to investigate the matter further by creating three fifteen-year-old identities (she herself is 26) and posting "Pretty or ugly?" videos of her own. These received equally vile comments, but perhaps more shocking was the ulterior motive behind some of the positive ones – and who they were from.

It would be easy to judge a show like this by its intentions, and the good work it does in drawing attention to a serious problem, but ultimately this is a theatre piece and it doesn't feel as if much thought has gone into its structure, beyond an iconoclastic desire to get away from the traditional "me performer, you audience" distinction. It feels as if Orwin has thrown in ideas in the order they occurred to her, and whilst I appreciate the satisfaction of showing the reaction of guys when she directs similar comments to them, using footage of them without their consent raises unavoidable moral (and presumably legal) questions. On the other hand, the use of her own childhood toys to represent characters in the story, including a forty-two-year-old man who made obscene suggestions to (as he thought) a fifteen-year-old girl, is chillingly effective.

After the interval TheatreState presents The Fanny Hill Project with Cheryl Gallacher in the role of Fanny, initially seen looking pale and interesting to some suitably period music. Fanny Hill, published in 1748 and properly titled Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, is considered the first prose pornography — no surprise that it's rather tame by modern standards, and also rather implausible, with the heroine almost instantly getting over her revulsion at being asked to sleep with a succession of people she finds disgusting. The show contrasts the novel, chapter by chapter, with equivalent events in the real life story of one of the cast members, who slipped into sex work when she found herself living in New York without means of support. (Well, I say chapter by chapter — I haven't read Fanny Hill, but I doubt one of the chapters is really called "Girl on Girl Action"...)

Moreover, this is also a satire on the presentation of women in the media, so every so often the performers are required to stop what they are doing and dance provocatively to the song "Horny". A little predictable, but the point is more subtly made by showrunner Jordan Eaton interrupting Tess Seddon whenever she's talking about anything non-sexual, then refusing to interrupt her when she's talking about sexual experiences she obviously finds uncomfortable.

This show benefits from being busier and less humourless than Pretty Ugly, though the latter is undoubtedly harder hitting, and Seddon in particular is an engaging performer – it would have been interesting to hear more of her story and less of Fanny Hill, which I daresay we get the measure of pretty quickly. Truth be told I'd like to give three stars to Pretty Ugly and four to The Fanny Hill Project, but as I can't average them to three and a half I'll round up. And finally, an unexpected bonus of a feminist theatre festival — no queue for the men's loos.

Calm Down, Dear, at CPT

A thought-provoking and sometimes entertaining evening at the Camden People's Theatre with Pretty Ugly and The Fanny Hill Project, both part of the Calm Down, Dear festival of feminist theatre. 

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