Sunday, 24 February 2013

Pornography, Feb 23, 2013 **1/2

By Simon Stephens
Green Street Theatre
Beckett Theatre, Malthouse, until March 3, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: **1/2 
Review in Herald Sun online on Sunday Feb 24 and  in print after Feb 25. KH
Simon Stephens’ challenging play, Pornography, does not refer to sexual pornography but to the horrors of modern life: crime, violence, social isolation and dysfunction, and the pervasive threat of terrorism.

This episodic play is set against the backdrop of London during a week in July 2005 when several momentous events occurred:  the G8 Summit, the announcement of the London Olympics, the Live 8 Concert, and the horrific London bombings of July 7.

David Myles’ production cannot compete with the original, superb version by Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg, but it captures some of the intimate drama and turmoil in the lives of eight people touched by the bombings.

The characters, whose lives intersect superficially, appear in monologues and dialogues, but some are more successful because of the unevenness of the acting.

Emma Chelsey is compelling as the stroppy, troubled teen that stalks her teacher, gets into street fights and loathes everyone and everything.

Jesse Velik is strangely the most moving character, despite playing a train bomber, a sensitive, well-spoken, young father who is addled but passionate about his campaign of terror.

Frances Hutson finds some comedy and a sense of injustice in the 82-year woman who, unaware of the bombings, is unable to get a train and trudges through the abandoned streets of London.

The reunion of a separated brother (Justin Hosking) and sister (Sonya Suares) challenges the audience with issues of incest, but it loses impact because of frequent blackouts between scenes.

Other characters include a young teacher (Hannah Greenwood) who visits her former Literature Professor (Richard Neal) to ask for assistance in getting a lecturing job, but the dinner turns into a sad, failed seduction.

Imat Akelo-Opio is miscast as the disillusioned, young executive, performing her with a persistently shrill tone and inaccurate accent.

Actors moving across the stage during others’ scenes do not illuminate the stories and often distract because of the creaky stage floor.

The complex staging and design of the Hamburg production is replaced with six screens showing digital imagery (Marshall White) that provide transitions between characters that are sometimes affecting but often intrusive.

With such a sensitive issue as the bombings at its core, it is no wonder that a German theatre commissioned Pornography but English companies rejected it.

By Kate Herbert

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