DramaLondonReview

Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography – The Orange Tree Theatre, London

Writer: Declan Greene

Director: Gianluca Lello

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

With such a cracking title, it’s comes as a surprise that Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography feels so familiar. Two lonely people find company in each other, and what follows is half romcom, half thriller. Playing as part of the Directors’ Festival at the Orange Tree Theatre, Gianluca Lello has definitely got the best out of his actors, who light up this play.

Lello is studying his masters at St Mary’s University in Twickenham, which also allows for a year’s training at The Orange Tree with the chance to direct a one-hour play in the festival. Lello has chosen a play by Australian writer Declan Greene, and with only a little tweaking it fits perfectly in a British landscape, helped in that it deals with the universal themes of loneliness and addiction.

Matthew Douglas plays a man in his 40s whose sexless marriage leads him to online pornography. He waits until his wife has gone to bed before he opens his flies and his laptop. Worried – or perhaps fortified – by his solitary addiction he seeks solace on a dating app.

Here he meets a woman, played by Cate Hamer. She’s hooked to the internet, too, but her drug is online shopping. Maxing out on her credit cards, she fears the bailiffs knocking on her door. The early scenes when the two are chatting on the app, or when they have their first awkward date are hilarious, made even more dramatic by the loud crashing noises signifying scene changes.

Douglas’ character – he has no name apart from Man – is privileged and wealthy, but we find out little more about him, giving the impression that he is a very shallow sea. The opening minutes provide everything we will ever know about him, and so Douglas plays him for laughs, and he gets them in spades. Woman is more detailed; Hamer’s character embarks on a journey of sort, and her backstory is revealed more slowly. She’s a tragic figure, but the two actors’ partnership is electric.

The surprises come right at the end, and Lello manages to bypass the play’s unlikely narrative to focus on another universal theme, ageing. This might have been the time to use the mirrors that otherwise hang pointlessly above the stage. Like a couple of the other plays in this festival, the props seem to hinder the story on stage rather than illuminate it.

Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography is a tense, yet funny hour of theatre, and its chilling conclusion is played superbly by Douglas and Hamer. A by-product of the internet, invented to connect, is isolation, and this is what it looks like.

Runs until 11 August 2019

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