Writer: Adam Foster
Director: Grace Duggan
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
Of all the shows playing at The Vault Festival this year, the most compelling beginning must belong to Wood, a play about a play about a film about a film. Straightaway the audience is witness to a film crew filming a scene for their porno. Everything is in place: the actress, dressed in just her lingerie awaits doggy-style upon the bed, the cameras are ready, and the light reflector hovers above the set. There’s just one thing wrong: world-famous porn legend John Rolando can’t get it up.
Not that we quite see all this. There is no bed, there is no camera in sight and the actors have all got their clothes on. Rolando’s efforts to rise for the occasion are all very comically done with a bicycle pump as he tries to fantasize his way to swollen victory. (Although no expert on porn, I did wonder where the fluffer had got to?)
Set, at first, in 1983, Rolando’s failure to perform is an affront to his masculinity and he is forced to prove his manliness in other ways. His wife is a porn star, too, and she now is making more money than him, a fact that emasculates him further. But just as this story progresses, a postmodern reveal shows that we are actually in the present day, looking back at gender roles of the past.
From then on, we are never quite sure where we are and the results are hilarious as the actors re-perform the scenes, but this time with colour-blind and gender-blind casting. With each iteration, new things are learned. George Fletcher plays Rolando and also, in another postmodern nod, Adam Foster, the writer of this play. The other three – female – actors berate Adam for his male gaze and privileged views.
Nneka Okoye is brilliant as a black actor fed up with the limited roles that she’s offered, while Philippa Hogg is excellent as the loud-talking, potty-mouthed film director. Claire Cartwright plays Rolando’s wife Cynthia (AKA Taylor Bubblegum), and in her capable hands, we see her replace her husband as the main protagonist.
The best thing about this play is that although it’s dealing with some very important issues around white patriarchy, it never takes itself too seriously. It’s thoughtful without ever being homiletic. It’s a lot of fun, though, at 50 minutes, it finishes too abruptly.
Runs until 3 March 2019 | Image: Contributed