Written by: Simon Stephens
Seen at: Chapter Arts Centre, 27th April
An intermingling of stories hinting at deep passions and perverse thoughts, Pornography allows us to glimpse the inner transgressive nature of a diverse selection of Londoners, during the summer of 2005.
The effective use of the senses really helped bring this piece to life and engulf the audience in the moment, with sounds not just coming from the background music, but from sex scenes issuing out of an older woman’s TV set, or the movement of staging which was, at all times, fully incorporated in the performance – also, importance placed on sections of the text as, within a monologue, the characters grab a microphone and emphasise their utterings. Blackouts, with hundreds of pieces of paper falling from the ceiling signalled high impact moments, and put the audience under the falling skies of London – made us feel the chaos the characters felt in their everyday lives, the 7/7 bombings far from their thoughts.
Each character seemed to be searching for something – chasing desire or simply relationship; to be beholden to someone. This encapsulated the loneliness of the city which, even during moments where characters shared scenes, was often emulated by their conversation: A brother talking of empty but beautiful museums; the sister (Dinah Olajire) spouting monologues about society that are empty of sentiment; the lecturer (Richard Elfyn), so in need of companionship that he bribes a student into his flat and attacks her; the widower (Sharon Morgan) who is so unused to conversing with people she physically shakes with fear when the postman rings the bell, but is drawn into contact with a stranger by following her nose to barbequed chicken; the teenage boy (Gwydion Rhys) who develops such an attraction to his maths teacher he stalks and eventually threatens to stab her; the mother who ruins her companies chances of winning a bid to inject some excitement into her life – perhaps her husband will notice her and her new gold sandals if she tells him she’s been fired; the suicide bomber who decides to leave his wife and children behind, but for what cause?
As the set is pushed and broken apart we see the lives of these characters spiral out of control with issues of incest, violence, sexual deviancy and destruction played out, leading to the climactic moment where the bomber takes his final journey through the city. The tumult of the music at this point drowned out much of what was said, and Jade Willis’s speech faded in insignificance against the sounds, but the foreboding sense of what was to come, and how it might further affect the lives of the characters we had, if briefly, grown to care for, was clearly conveyed.
Mathilde Lopez’s daring style makes this a dynamic piece of theatre, if a little ‘out there’ for those used to a more conventional theatre experience. With exceptional performances from Gwydion Rhys and Sharon Morgan who bring out some true human humour, along with Richard Elfyn, this is an interesting performance it would be a shame to miss.
Pornography is currently touring numerous venues around Wales, with their final performance in Abergavenny’s Borough Theatre on 19th May.