The last of 5 Pound Theatre's repertory season is a strongly rendered production of Michael Gurr's Sex Diary of an Infidel, directed by Marcel Dorney.
Written in the early 90's, this story of sex, lies and journalism set in Melbourne and Manila is still relevant and punchy today. 5 Pound's ensemble team comprise a talented bunch but special mention here goes to Tim Wotherspoon as the creepy and mysterious brothel owner, Max. The dynamic between him and ladyboy Toni (Keith Brockett) is thoroughly enjoyable, ambivalent and textured, altogether believable. Not so much the other pairings: the play has Tony (Brendan Hawke) and Laura (Lelda Kapsis) tumbling for each other without any real foundation and the connection between Freya Pragt's Jean and Martin (winningly played by Nate Charles Troisi) again, doesn't seem as powerful but that's because the female characters aren't as well-realised as the men, they're not given nearly as much personality.
The play takes a long time to get going and the most interesting aspect of the story is the Toni character deciding to give up the relatively comfortable life of a prostitute and his/her connection to Max to devote him/herself to a dangerous involvement in a socialist guerilla movement. This part of the narrative is more compelling than the larger story of Jean's having fabricated so much of her reporting or that of her doomed relationship with Martin. The real mystery is Jean's history with Max.
The set is a series of cubicles with curtains, a nifty design which symbolically supports the shifty, fragile lives of the characters. Telling a biggish story in a small space presents a problem with closeness to the actors and an overbearing sense of intimacy becoming almost distractions, but the issue of dimension is here dealt with pretty effectively by Justin Murphy. Also, with such closeness the actors get a chance to speak quietly and command the stage with subtlety – again, Wotherspoon and Brockett each make exceptional use of this.
The play is concerned with too many themes: deception for the sake of deception, exploitation, notions of how much we can really know one another other, the tourist sex industry and the role of the media, to be completely satisfying but it is an energetic and sensitive script with some memorable characterisation. The era needs to be quickly sign-posted on stage though; it's important that we understand the play is set before the days of the Internet for it to be plausible.
A strong finish to a fine season of theatre. Jason Kavanagh's 5 Pound Theatre ensemble has been very very good, Santa.
Five Pound Theatre presents
Sex Diary of an Infidel
by Michael Gurr
Directed by Marcel Dorney
Venue: The Owl and the Pussycat | 34 Swan Street, Richmond (opposite Richmond Station)
Dates: December 11 – 14, 2013