Thu 21st – Sat 23rd November 2013


Katie Exell

at 02:24 on 22nd Nov 2013



Disclaimer: This is not pornography. The closest you’ll come to nudity in this play is a trouser-less woman who has just engaged in an incestuous relationship with her brother. Simon Stephen’s ‘Pornography’, directed by Hannah Brennan and performed by Hild Bede Theatre, actually focuses on the disillusionment and anxiety within the private lives of the British public, in the run up to the 7/7 bombings.

The audience is never allowed to relax and feel comfortable whilst watching (and not just because of the Antarctic temperatures in Caedmon Hall). The opening of the play suddenly forced itself onto us with a complete blackout. The curtains then opened to reveal a minimalistic set with one sofa, a table full of alcohol and debris, and a solitary spotlight. This darkness added to the sense of isolation and unease that appropriately pervades the play.

The cast themselves were, on the whole, successful at portraying troubled characters within this troubled setting. Anna Feroldi was haunting as an unstable woman with an obsessive attachment to her son. Although their first scene was a little rocky, Lily Morgan and Rory Barnes were unnervingly harmonious in their roles as a brother and sister who indulge in their attraction for each other. Ben Morris had one of the most challenging characters; a bomber who is always alone onstage and only speaks in soliloquy. Most of his performance was delivered with sensitivity, but could be inconsistent and his outbursts of anger could feel over-acted at times, notably in his sudden need for a ‘fucking almond croissant’ and some coffee. This angry scene linked to the next one, where Michael McLauchlan provided rare comic relief as a lecherous professor uncomfortably inviting his student back for ‘coffee’. However, after the interval his character became uncomfortable in a darker and more dangerous way, when he seemed to force himself upon her. McLauchlan was impressive in managing to access both the humour and the depravity of his character.

‘Are you laughing or are you crying?’ was repeated many times throughout the play. It summarised how tragic and doubtful all of the characters are. It shows how Stephen’s script felt self-referential and pretentious at times. Yet it is also an example of how he managed to hold together the threads of seven diverse story-lines. The action quickly jumped between various character scenes and between lists of numbers referring to 7/7 victims. The temporal distortion of the plot was emotionally exhausting, not least because this play was over three hours long. It would have been more powerful with a shorter script and some tightening of acting, but it was ultimately something off the beaten Durham track and was sensitively and intelligently handled.



Hannah Brennan; 22nd Nov 2013; 11:07:52

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