According to Oscar Wilde, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and in many ways that’s true. Even an unflattering parody means that you have arrived and been noticed. I say this because this form of flattery is taken to an extreme length in Alexis Gregory’s play Sex/Crime at the Soho Theatre.
Two men stand in a dark room with plastic covered walls. There is not much to see. A large red sofa and a metal stand, both also covered in plastic, are the room’s only furnishings. The two men – no names, so let’s call then A (Jonny Woo) and B (Alexis Gregory) – are, in fact customer and client. The service offered is to recreate the killings of a gay serial killer. On offer are various gruesome scenarios. All of which emulate the work carried out by ‘Him’ as they refer to the real killer. Both men have their own role in the ‘game’ but, as things progress, the lines between client, customer, killer and client become blurred leading to a final experience that will affect both men forever.
I have to admit, Sex/Crime was not really my cup of tea, and to be honest I’m not sure why. Both Gregory and Woo played their roles extremely well and both A and B were very believable as people. Gregory’s writing is very strong and powerful, giving us a story that starts gently, then within minutes, becomes a whirlwind of activity and emotion. The story covers a multitude of themes and, considering the subject matter, is quite amusing in some places.
Rocco Venna’s set design was sparse but effective and Mike Robertson’s lighting design – with very effective use of blackouts – really added to the atmosphere – particularly in the latter part of the show. In fact, there were a lot of positives in the whole performance.
But, I had two problems with Sex/Crime. First, I really disliked both characters. A and B were both people I would avoid in real life like the plague. It’s probably a testament to the quality of the writing and acting but there was a point when I really hoped one of them would just get on and kill the other simply to stop his annoying voice and personality. I am also slightly coulrophobic, so a character in a clown mask is always going to make me feel uneasy. My other issue is that, whilst the play, and the relationship between the two, was quite convoluted, I quickly in my mind worked out the ending and, when it turned out I was right, I was a bit disappointed that it hadn’t gone a completely different way.
So, although I didn’t particularly enjoy Sex/Crime I have to give praise to the writing, staging and acting and the show did raise questions in my mind about the nature of the society we live in, which is not too far from the one portrayed in the play. Not every show can please everyone and that is a good thing – life would be so boring if we all liked the same thing – and I would say that the majority of the audience had a very positive reaction to the show.
Review by Terry Eastham
In a fractured and divided city, two men, ‘A’ and ‘B’, meet to recreate the killings of a famous gay serial killer, for their own pleasure…and the right price.
“Everything else is tumbling down
But not you and me
You and me are going to hold tight
You and me are just right”
Alexis Gregory & Emmerson and Ward present
BY ALEXIS GREGORY
Tue 21 Jan – Sat 1 Feb 2020