Masterpieces is a fiery and uncompromising condemnation of pornography and the objectification of women.
The play opens on three couples having dinner in a restaurant, exchanging sexist jokes. The response is varied: some of them laugh uproariously, some of them uncomfortably, and one is deeply unhappy. Their domestic discussion about the morality of pornography is suddenly amplified a thousand-fold in the next scene, in which Rowena is on trial for murder. She had just been to see a ‘snuff’ film, in which a porn actress is actually mutilated and killed on screen, and then pushed a man under a train because he was harassing her. The play is the story of her journey, through seeing a porn magazine for the first time to a thwarted attempt to help an unhappy prostitute, from uncomfortable laughter to radical and disgusted protest at female subjugation.
Masterpieces is an angry and defiant play, first staged in 1983, at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.