Pornography - Intriguing Script with Top Notch Performances

Spoiler: this show has no pornography in it. So let's get that out of the way.

    Pornography is a play written by Simon Stephens that premiered in Hanover, Germany in 2007. It's set in London in 2005 during the week of Live 8, the 2012 Olympic Announcement and, tragically, the 7/7 bombings of London's subway trains. The audience follows the stories of eight individuals, sometimes over lapping, as they weave through these three events.

    I didn't know what I thought about this show when the lights came up. I was having trouble figuring out why a play tackling these particular subjects was chosen by a director for a Vancouver Fringe show. Vancouver doesn't have that much in common with London--sure, we've had the Olympics, but we've never been the host of an international anti-poverty event, been the target of a major terrorist attack, or have nearly as much history as this Old World-capital. The script is clearly about Londoners (despite the actors performing in Canadian accents--something I was thankful about. There's nothing worse than an hour and half of bad British accents) so what is it doing here in Vancouver?

    But then I realized that this question is a testament to the success of the Mika Laulainen's direction. This show makes you think. Not in an obnoxious, avant-garde, preachy sort of way; it subtly nudges you into the reality of being in a theatre watching a play, gently inviting you to consider your own thoughts and feelings about what's happening on stage.  

    It's almost like pornography for the critical part of your brain.   

    For example, there's a great line about being on the train or bus and "not wanting to talk to anyone". This got an all-too-well-knowing laugh from the audience. Studies often cite Vancouver as having a certain collective reluctance to connect with one another. Struggling to communicate was definitely a prevalent struggle in this play and while it takes place in London, there's a lot Vancouver can relate to.

    The set was delightfully inventive. Umbrellas hung from the ceiling were reminiscent of cloudy London weather (a.k.a Vancouver weather) and lent a dream-like atmosphere as they floated and spun. The play felt like a vivd dream--drifting in and out of deeply emotional stories, connected by vague coincidences, while we stay conscious of our existence in the dream theatre.

    Productions like this should include headshots with names on their programs because there are a lot of great, hilarious performances, mostly from the rich monologues. The incestuous relationship between the two sisters was like watching a tarantula walk across a slice of angel food cake--I don't often physically cringe at live theatre. But this wasn't because it was in poor taste, rather it was the honest commitment of the two actresses that made it so believably real. Every single actor in this production does something funny, bold and surprising with their character.

    This show is a must see for any Fringe journeys out to the Cultch for the solid quality of its acting and the unique script. I really hope this wins a Fringe award. It certainly deserves a medal for intrigue.

By Matthew Willis