Left – Ansuya Nathan and Nick Pelomis. Cover – Ansuya Nathan (centre, in white) and L-R Matt Crook, Carmel Johnson and Nick Pelomis. Photos – Sofia Calado
Pornography is a dark tale of disenfranchisement in London during a few heady days between the Live 8 concert and the city being awarded the Olympic Games in 2005. This is a fascinating, and at times frustrating, play that's arrogantly degenerate and it by no means decelerates to vindicate itself. The strong narrative grabs the attention: it's dour, teems with latent sexuality and violence. Marginally flawed, the production doesn't quite achieve the artistic status it strains for, but it's too well directed and powerfully acted to discount.
Uptight, emotive, and sometimes brusquely comic, the production re-creates the period of the London bombings with lucid descriptions and fiercely wrought characters, including a tormented suicide bomber. The topics covered are bleak - including jealousy; bigotry; xenophobia; incest and loneliness - but all are perceptive and arresting via brackish dialogue and sturdy physical performances. The credible ensemble ensures that an air of menace is never absent for long.
Director Daniel Clarke manages to make the audience feel emotionally involved with the eight disparate and unsympathetic characters. He may not be able to answer all the big questions asked by the playwright, but the production is redeemed by its evocative physicality and by compelling performances; particularly Nick Pelomis as a wired suicide bomber and Carmel Johnson as a discarded widow. Matt Crook smartly portrays a racist schoolboy who stalks his teacher and Ansuya Nathan is inspiring as a woman who takes revenge on her insensitive manager. These four troupers work well together as they perform seven explicit stories united only by the tragedy of 7/7.
Wendy Todd's stark set enhances the unsettling atmosphere and creates a pew for the traumatic finale where the cast read comments concerning those that died on the Tube and buses. But it's the cast of Pornography that deserves much of the credit for making this play work by capturing the essence of the human condition and imprinting messages into minds that last long after the audience has left the theatre.
State Theatre Company of South Australia presents
by Simon Stephens
Director Daniel Clarke
Venue: Space theatre
Dates: 18 - 27 October 2012