Friday, 22 November 2013

NFSW (Not Safe For Work), Nov 24, 2013 **1/2

By Lucy Kirkwood, by Red Stitch Actors Theatre
Red Stitch Actors Theatre, St Kilda, until Dec 21, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Nov 24, 2013
Stars: **1/2
 Full review also published in Herald Sun online on Nov 26, 2013 and in print. KH
Olga Makeeva

It’s no great stretch to imagine the editor of a sensationalist, men’s magazine as self-serving and mean-spirited, but you’d think he’d insist on due diligence checks before running an explicit, exploitative photo of an unknown girl.

 Unfortunately, in Lucy Kirkwood’s play, NFSW, the editor of Doghouse magazine, Aidan (Ben Prendergast), faces catastrophe when a staffer, Sam (Matthew Whitty), chooses an underage girl as the winner of their sexy pic-of-the-month competition.

Pleading ignorance is not much of a defense for the indefensible, but Aidan tries it on when the girl’s scruffy father (James Wardlaw) arrives from Manchester in full litigation mode.

Kirkwood’s script demonstrates that exploitative, trashy men’s and women’s magazines both trivialise issues, reduce analysis to shallow commentary, objectify bodies and demean their junior staff.

However, her analysis is almost as thin as the magazines she criticises, her characters are two-dimensional caricatures that bicker, banter, monologue and repeat themselves.

After Sam is fired from Doghouse for his role in the nudey photo debacle, he staggers into a women’s magazine, Electra, only to discover that editor, Miranda (Olga Makeeva), is an unscrupulous shark just like Aidan.

Tanya Dickson’s direction feels superficial, missing the potential light and shade of the story and leaving the actors looking uncomfortable.

There are certainly some laughs at the awfulness of the ethical wasteland that these characters inhabit and their willingness to abandon their principles at the office door.

However, the jokes fall flat in early scenes, it is hard to enjoy such thoroughly dislikeable characters, and Miranda’s inexcusably laboured, final costume change wastes time getting to a bleeding obvious visual gag about feminism.

Whitty gives an aptly wide-eyed, lamb-to-the-slaughter look to Sam, the over-qualified graduate, while Wardlaw earns the only sympathy as the girl’s unsophisticated father.

Kasia Kaczmarek plays Oxford grad, Charlotte, with slightly awkward, pained restraint, Ben Prendergast captures Aidan’s deceptiveness but does not quite balance his egotism and benevolence, while Mark Casamento pushes too hard as trust fund snob, Rupert.

In the end, NFSW is not sufficiently scathing as satire, lacks the belly laughs of a broad comedy and barely penetrates the surface of its subject, UK trash mags.

By Kate Herbert

Directed by: Tanya Dickson
Cast: Mark Casamento, Olga Makeeva, Ben Prendergast, Matt Whitty, Kasia Kaczmarek, James Wardlaw.

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