North American premiere of Simon Stephens’ relatively unknown play leaves an impression
Theatre Inconnu is staying true to its name with its current production, the North American premiere of Simon Stephens’ Pornography.
But the title of the play may be a bit misleading. This isn’t the type of pornography with the cheesy 70s background music and lame plot. This is more like the kind we make on our home video camera— a real life story—only there’s no nudity, it’s the language that gets hot and heavy.
This little known U.K. play tackles the terrorizing highs, lows and confusion that engulfed the days leading up to the bombings that ripped London’s underground apart that July morning in 2005.
The cast brings an honesty that sucks the audience into the lives of everyday Londoners, in seven playlets— counting down in reverse order from seven to one. From the false sense of community surrounding the Live 8 concert and the celebration and dismay of being awarded the Olympics, to the death of 52 innocent people—each play unfolds putting the spotlight on the lives of eight citizens —including one of four bombers who set out that morning with a backpack of explosives.
But it was the other seven British citizens partaking in acts of transgression that drew gasps and uncomfortable laughter from the audience. Two brothers having a sexual relationship (just kissing on stage), a teacher groping his former student and ultimately an old woman with a bitter core and a heart of ice that reaches such a low that she knocks on the door of a stranger in a moment of weakness looking for a piece of chicken, only to be met by a mocking tone and the cruelty of a cell phone camera.
It draws the audience in like voyeurs and holds their attention as if they’re watching some sort of smut they know they shouldn’t enjoy, but can’t help feeling a little guilty pleasure— as if they’re objectifying something they know is wrong, but just sit back and take it all in, offering an uncomfortable giggle when things get awkward or embarrassing.
A recurring theme keeps popping up. Characters ask: “Are you laughing or are you crying?” The answer isn’t immediately clear.
What is clear is that everyday people are capable of very bad things.
But it wasn’t the bomber’s story that was the most shocking, disturbing or unsettling. The fictional bomber seemed as if he was just another jilted young man on the subway, with a bitter attitude and no connection to the faces that pass him by. He was just like everybody else. His character wasn’t the most scary, the most vicious, the most haunting. Maybe that is the most unsettling thing of all.
The set— made up of televisions representing closed circuit televisions so prominent on the streets of England, is simple yet to the point, and the sound effects echo the theme, “Are you laughing or are you crying?” It’s hard to distinguish between the cheers and the screams at times.
This production, directed by Theatre Inconnu’s Graham McDonald leaves a lasting impression. It is highly recommended.
Starring Pippa Catling, Julian Cervello, Marina Lagacé, James McDougall, Alex Plouffe, Michael Shewchuk, Naomi Simpson and Jason Stevens.
Set design by Tommy Mairs, sound design by Jay Mitchell (Z-Day, Inside) and Lighting Design by Bryan Kenney (Inside).
For more information, visit islandnet.com/~tinconnu.
May 12, 13, 14 at 8 p.m.
May 14 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $14 regular and $10 students, seniors and unwaged. Online at ticketrocket.org or by phone at 250-590-6291.