Writer and Director: Oli Forsyth
Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty
There’s a sweet appeal in this short, sexless play about porn addiction and the digital world. The relationship between the two main characters is almost ideal – supportive, passionate, tender – and the writing is firey and relevant without preaching.
Two actors (Alice McCarthy, Luke Murphy) play about six characters between them. We follow Luka (McCarthy) and Jules (Murphy) as they discover each other – both feeling alone in their addiction to online pornography. Through the personal and professional difficulties that arise from their compulsive behaviour (with an interesting dynamic between cause and effect here) and their efforts to rein it in we see the relationship develop.
The most interesting element is the questioning about the nature of porn addiction. Forsyth questions whether it is separate to others, a special case, or driven by the same things that make other vices psychologically addictive. Full of, but not burdened with, true information and insight into the nature of online pornography he sets out a case for the industry as one with serious incentive to draw people in and keep them there – and illustrates the human side of this multi-billion pound business. Developing further, he questions whether it’s technology, in general, that’s addictive, and porn just happens to be one strand of an overall harmful element of modern life. Are we, even the non-porn addicts, simply in the grip of digital tech – screens and “content” supplanting healthy imagination and fantasy?
The ideas are compelling – unfortunately the story less so. It’s good, but at an hour long it’s in a strange place where it feels a lot has been struck out in an edit, but anything longer for such a defined brief would have been too long. McCarthy and Murphy are charming to watch – as Luka and Jules, but also their auxiliary characters of therapist, priest, boss, father. The characters themselves, however, are reasonably thin. Apart from Luka’s boss Will, they’re all essentially ciphers – there to advance, not enrich the story. Filling the arches under Waterloo with sharp porn noises provides a smart counterpoint to some of the emotional content in the play – thank you Ben White for the sound design that really adds to the performance.
As a meditation on the human impact of digitising our lives, as well as the compulsions (noble or otherwise) that drive us, it’s an entertaining, thoughtful piece. The ideas and performances are vibrant, and the ending is lovely from a personal relationship perspective. Addiction and pornography are intensely emotional subjects, however, and there needs to be a touch more work done on reflecting that in the performance overall.
Runs until 17 March 2019