Everyone should watch Pornography

Pornography is harrowing, claustrophobic, occasionally lewd and potentially brilliant. Despite having the maximum time length and the maximum cast size allowed in the BT, it has that closed-in, compacted and personal feel that BT plays should have, even if this particular play leaves you confused about whether you’ve inappropriately intruded into the lives of its characters or if it’s your own personal space which has been violated. The week in July 2005 that saw the G8 summit, the Live 8 concert, London getting the 2012 Olympics, and the 7/7 bombings is condensed into a 1.5 hour window into the aching lives of seven Londoners. Ambitious, to say the least – as director Joe Murphy put it, “we like to go to the edge and say hello”.

As Chloe Orrock stood alone in the middle of the stage and delivered the first lines, I had a brief flashback to GCSE drama and wondered whether we were really going to start with a dreamy monologue from an actress staring into the distance. Ten seconds later I was hanging on her every word. A young mother in an unhappy marriage, her desperate longing for human contact is palpable, her love for her child a necessary respite, and her hopes and her childlike excitement about Live 8 and the Olympics immediately create the sense of a tightening spring, poised to cause immense damage on 7/7.

In another storyline, Jason (Chris Greenwood), a 25-year-old youth still at school, is little short of manic – intense, implicitly threatening, raving about being part of an Aryan race and about school rules which are “the rules of the insane” – and then incongruously his father (Rory Fazan) describes him as “vulnerable… he has incredibly soft skin for a man of his age”. Elsewhere, a graduate teacher (Anna Maguire) flounders in unrequited love for a professor. The script is peppered with references to body parts, texture, and smell, and the claustrophobia of the “rules” comes through jarring with the fragility of the human.

The incestuous relationship between a brother and sister (Max Gill and Charlotte Salkind) brings the play closest to a literal reading of its title. The pair seem to exist to break boundaries. She confesses controversial and disturbing desires from the outset, almost as though her sole intention is to be as abrasive as possible, lamenting the loss of “the simple joy of beating up your lover… or touching a burns victim”. The notion of contravening all accepted social rules is one that holds a thrill for her character, and a kind of morbid fascination for the audience, especially in light of the constant foreshadowing of the bombings which are about to take place.

It is difficult to imagine how the bombing itself will be depicted, although the self-narration of the bomber (Tim Kiely) leading up to the moment is compelling and frightening, and could potentially convey the event itself. It is also hard to tell how that explosive intrusion into the ‘accepted rules’ of society will affect the way that Jason, the siblings, and the rest of the play’s fragile Londoners view those rules and their own humanity – but I will definitely be in the BT in 2nd week to find out.

5 stars *****

-Sarah Gashi