Pornography, London - Frances Ashman as Office Worker, by Robert Day
First things first - Simon Stephen’s play has absolutely nothing to do with pornography or the porn industry. Rather it’s a multi-layered and intelligent response to the city of London, in particular during July 2005 when we experienced 7/7, winning the Olympics bid and the Live 8 concert.
The play depicts eight different characters. Four of them tell us about their lives using direct monologues while the other four live their lives before us. All the stories are frequently interrupted by one another and it’s not until mid way through that we begin to get an understanding of who the people are and the lives they’re coming from. The only obvious link is that they all live in London and thus directly or indirectly are effect by one, two or all of the events that took place in July 2005. The characters include a couple (Bushell and Spruell) who having been apart for months are spending time together in hisEast London flat – they also happen to be brother and sister. Then there’s the terrorist (Welsh) travelling on the train to Hammersmith; where he plans blow himself up. A teacher and student (Soleman and Graham) are reunited after eight years apart. She is looking for a new job while he – having recently been divorced – is looking for some company.
Pornography is not an easy play to watch and it takes much concentration and contemplation both during and after the performance to fully comprehend what Stephen’s trying to say. But I recommend you take the time, as once you’ve deconstructed this superbly crafted play you are greeted by a brilliantly clever and stimulating piece of drama. In essence he is tackling the events of July 2005 not by actually depicting them but by ingeniously illustrating their effects on those who witnessed and experience them. These range from a British bomber who was responsibly for 7/7 to a woman in desperate need to get to her doctors office, but can’t due to the tubes being cancelled. However the complex composition of the piece is both a blessing and a curse and combined with its expectation-raising title it will undoubtedly disappoint as many as it delights who simply don’t understand it.
The most engaging and interesting of the stories is the incestuous couple whose decision to be together despite being related, is turn on its head when he is forced to walk home after the attacks. He witnesses the panic and hysteria the bombing have caused and realises he can’t deal with the pressure of being with his sister, despite being deeply in love with her. Kirsty Bushell does an extraordinary job as said sister and her performance is by far one of the strongest of the group. She perfectly captures her strength and weakness in equal measure and you feel a strange sympathy for the woman who is in love with her brother.
Pornography is a remarkably written play by an obviously talented playwright but while the themes and concepts should relate to everyone who would consider themselves a lover of this great city, it will unfortunately only be appreciated by those who make the effort to decipher it.
Cast includes: Anthony Welsh, Kirsty Bushell, Sarah Soleman, Sam Graham and Sam Spruell
Written by Simon Stephens
Directed by Sean Holmes
Pornography is at the Tricycle Theatre until 29 August, 2009.