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Review of Pornography at The Bridewell Theatre

Simon Stephens play PornographyGiven that any production company putting on Pornography has permission to perform the scenes in any order they wish, Sedos goes for it, going so far as to have started even as the audience is still taking their seats, and absolutely not performing the scenes in the same order as the original script.

The opening sequence is so repetitive it quickly outlasts its welcome, although everything that follows is intriguing and worth paying attention to. There isn’t any actual porn depicted, despite the show’s title (although I understand at least one previous production of this play does contain some). But the play has to be called something or other, and while this title is provocative, it’s not as insensitive as other possible titles for a play set in London around the time of the terrorist attacks on 7 July 2005. What we are exposed here are what initially feel like a series of separate stories.

All of the scenes involve at least some talking directly to the audience, providing decent engagement throughout. Of particular note for me were Alex Marlowe’s ‘Jason’, coming across as both a deadpan and articulate teenager, and Elizabeth Stevens’ ‘Elderly Lady’, depicting with a mix of humour and sensitivity a fiercely independent – and opinionated – person.

This production travels light, as it were, with only essential props used, allowing for very quick scene changes. Perhaps more importantly, it allows the text to do the storytelling work, and the audience to focus in on the words being spoken.

I mean, there are rather shocking elements, particularly when two siblings, played by Sarah Ratner and Alex Woolley, get more than a tad too close to each other, and the Bomber (Dewaine Barret: a very good effort for a debut theatre role as an adult, although I’d personally question the southern accent from an apparently northern character) is surprisingly cheerful – and hardly a fundamentalist of any description. Odd? Yes, but deliberately so, and designed to provoke thoughtful discussion afterwards.

The point of it, with the benefit of hindsight, seems to be that we all make mistakes in life, but whether these misguided actions were trivial or monumentally devastating, we are all human. In our need for belonging, those who live in a large metropolitan area like London can find themselves paradoxically alone in a place teeming with people. This production explores these issues – and more – in a smorgasbord of scenes performed with both subtlety and passion. Not always comfortable viewing, but a fascinating play nonetheless.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

One week in July 2005. London feels like the centre of the world.
Pornography is the stark and shattering play by Simon Stephens that captures Britain as it crashes from the euphoria and promise of the 2012 Olympics announcement into the devastation of 7/7.

Written in reaction to the events that occurred that fatal day, Pornography offers a kaleidoscopic view of London through 7 different seemingly unrelated stories, from an angry racist teenager besotted with his teacher, to a pair of siblings that enter into an incestuous relationship, and eventually one of the bombers himself on his final journey.

Cast
Teacher – Paul Caira
Student – Sarah Ratner
Sibling – Alex Woolley
Sibling – Minnie Walker
Elderly Lady – Liz Stevens
Bomber – Dewaine Barrett
Working Mum – Bex Parker-Smith
Jason – Alex Marlow

Director: Chris Davis
Producer: Madhia Hussain
Assistant director: Alastair Norton

Pornography, by Simon Stephens
The Bridewell Theatre
Bride Lane Fleet Street
London, EC4Y 8EQ
26th to 30th January 2016
http://www.sedos.co.uk/

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