Thursday, 2 July 1992
Sex Diary of an Infidel by Michael Gurr
Beckett Theatre until July 18, 1992
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on or about July 2, 1992
Published in print in The Melbourne Times in July 1992
There is quite a lot of sex on stage in this new play from Michael Gurr. Not the lurid se x one might expect from a story of exploitation in the Philippines but surprisingly, the sex hat comes of immediate attraction or intimacy.
Jean, an award-winning journalist (Janet Andrewartha), takes her devoted lover and photojournalist Martin (Kevin Harrington), to investigate the sex trade in the Philippines. She interviews Max, an Australian expatriate played with a delightfully wry touch by Roger Oakley, who runs an escort agency. His ‘special’ worker is Tony, the Philippino gender-bender played tastefully by Anthony Wong.
There the story about the ‘trade’ ends. This is a play which looks at the infidelity of the title in the broadest possible way. Disguise, deception, lies and manipulation seem to be rife. Some are victims, some perpetrators. The story becomes an expose of the tricks of the relationship trade rather than the sex industry.
Michael Gurr’s writing is sensitive and funny. The dialogue is subtle, layered and riddled with irony. Characters build slowly and the story is revealed in surprising and short bursts, like the guerilla fire of the Philippino insurgents.
Bruce Myles’ very stylish direction keeps all characters onstage throughout in an almost voyeuristic role. They peep and eavesdrop on each other’s conversations but the director never allows them to intrude on the dynamic of the scene. This is enhanced by a very interesting and flexible stage design by Judith Cobb.
Performances are very strong in this company, indicating intelligent casting and direction. Kevin Harrington’s Martin is appealingly gauche and adoring, and Janet Andrewartha is a sound lynchpin for the story. Anthon Wong lights up the stage on each appearance and is effectively balanced by his pimp, played by Roger Oakley.
Some script problems arise in the second half. Action escalates too quickly. Information about the pasts of the characters rattles along like gunfire but it seems that the story turns on some rather unlikely or, at least, unclear events and both story and characters become a little muddy.
This is a fine new play for Melbourne’s flourishing theatre scene. It is engaging, clever and – whose sex diary is it anyway?
By Kate Herbert July 1992