Melbourne International Arts Festival and
Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
17 October 2009
If Avenue Q left us with no doubt that the internet is for porn, be assured that the theatre is for Pornography.
Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg’s production of UK playwright Simon Stephens’s Pornography is set in London in July 2005. The city had just won the Olympic bid, Coldplay are so popular that some folk want to kick them in the teeth and some Englishmen are going to get onto public transport with bags of explosives.
It’s only been four years and already I can’t remember the details of the London bombings, let alone who played at Live 8. Pornography is firmly placed in UK social memory, but having the performance in German (with surtitles) distances us enough to concentrate on the story without needing to place ourselves back in July 2005.
With the superficial euphoria about an event that is still in the future and a cultural obsession with a rock concert as the background, seven unrelated stories are told in the lead up to the shattering day. Each are about momentary joy and being forced to break personal boundaries that reveal the obscenity, cruelty, loneliness and sadness that the previous happy had obscured. If you go along hoping for some hot nude action, it may be best to think about what we mean when we use the word pornography.
The content and story are enough to draw us in, but Director Sebastian Nübling and designers Muriel Gerstner and Jean-Marc Desbonnets tell this story though the phenomana of theatre. I wish I’d been brave enough to stop reading the surtitles and just watch.
The cast remain on stage, themselves watching and sometimes participating in the individual stories, while building or destroying a massive image of Brueghel’s Tower of Babel. Made from tiles, it’s part mosaic, but more recogniseable as a pixelated screen image that needs a slight squint or distance to reveal its clarity and hide its black hole imperfections and its grid order. We know that tower fell, we know London fell, but we want so much for the comfort of a completed, beautiful image.
This is wanky theatre at it’s best, worthy of much satisfying indulgence.
This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com.
And Melbournites, TODAY (Sunday 18) is your last chance to see Pornography.
And you can get into the Rumpus Room for free today if you have a festival ticket for Saturday or Sunday. It's not our beloved Artists Lounge, but it still looks kind of cool.