The ensemble cast of The State Theatre Company of South Australia’s production of Simon Stephens Pornography are a talented bunch. As is the Director and technicians. What fails is the script. It’s a patchy affair: sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
The comedy tends to work very well but the drama is uneven and, at times, springs into cliché along with inadvertently humorous attempts to shock. The script simply doesn’t live up to its promise.
Pornography is set in the City of London leading up to the official announcement of the host city of the 2012 Olympic games through to the July 7 Underground bombings. The play claims to explore the social, mental and emotional conditions that compel people to commit acts of terrifying violence. Stephens takes a humanist approach but it leaves the audience with no greater understanding of what produces a suicide bomber than a cursory reading of the mainstream media over breakfast.
Of the actors Carmel Johnson is clearly the standout performer. Johnson’s delivery in the role of an 83-year-old woman is not only superb but also at times utterly hilarious.
Ansuya Nathan contributes a solidly professional performance across the length of the show.
Matt Crook works very well with women’s clothes and high heels – he’s done it on stage before and does it with a sort of hairy-legged sensuality. Crook also gives a reading of an adolescent schoolboy in a style his teachers at Flinders Drama Centre would recognise immediately.
Nick Pelomis employs an explosive energy on stage, expertly tapping into the base elements of humanity.
Wendy Todd’s set is both simple and interesting – a scrim in front of a long open wardrobe behind a small stage.
Mark Pennington’s lighting is well suited to the stage design.
Daniel Clarke’s direction is stripped down and tight. Clarke maximises the dynamics of the set and lights.
Jason Sweeney’s ambient music is generally good but at times it grates rather than supports the action on stage. Simon Stollery as voice and dialect coach deserves an honourable mention for the results he’s achieved.
The STCSA has produced Pornography in an effort to attract younger people to the theatre. They are right in doing so as ultimately there is probably enough in it for a younger audience to relate to.