Porn.Cake | Malthouse TheatreLeft – Heather Bolton and Travis McMahon. Cover (l-r) – Luke Elliot, Christen O’Leary, Heather Bolton and Travis McMahon. Photos – Jeff Busby

Cakes are the new black. Porn is the new, um. Anyway. We all go on and on, talking and eating and developing intolerances to wheat and gluten, or porn, and having our conversations with our partners constantly interrupted by the other party's texting during afternoon tea. Theatre is full ot stories about how middle class couples keep slim, keep faithful, keep from hating one another, all the while suffering a surfeit of comfort eating and consumerism. Gastroporn or just gastro?

Porn.Cake is yet another play to deal with the not-quite-so-good life but the approach is original and the writing strong and sure. There is much consumption and mistreatment of many very nice cakes, which surely deserve a better fate. No-one actuallly shoves a cake in anyone's face and for that I was grateful. The cakey stuff works well as metaphor and gives the cast plenty of business to get on with on stage.

Two couples, Bella and Bill (played by Heather Bolton and Luke Elliot) and Annie and Ant (Christen O'Leary and Travis McMahon) have reached the stage in their lives where their respective, sometimes shared experiences, are examined in a reflective light, memories revisited for clues as to one's essential self. Where is 'that moment', the small moment of grace when one was most oneself, the one moment that made the difference? Could any of it have been any different?

There are stories and memories a-plenty (remember green apple shampoo?) expressed in some lovely writing, in the monologues, especially. The play employs as a device repeated circular conversations between the couples, the dialogue increasingly fragmented and incoherent, betraying their mounting tenseness and despair. This is familiar territory but here is an assured writer with an impressive mastery of subtext. The unsaid holds the stage tightly along with the action. Light and dark work very well together here, the play is sometimes funny and sometimes sad. It won't break your heart but it is satisfying. The ending, however, although as sweet as the pieces of cake the cast hand around to the audience, is somewhat lacklustre. The story confines itself and is resolved within those constraints, deliberately not going as deep as it might but this means you learn nothing new or visit anywhere unexpected. Which is fine.

The set does some interesing things: the walls begin to ooze in sickening black and lurid pink as the various states of play of the narrative are spelt out above in neon letters. A good, tightly done, well-performed production. No complaints.


Malthouse Theatre presents
Porn.Cake
by Vanessa Bates

Directed by Pamela Rabe

Venue: Beckett Theatre | The CUB Malthouse, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Dates: April 16 – May 8, 2011
Bookings: 03 9685 5111 | www.malthousetheatre.com.au