State Theatre Company of South Australia. Space Theatre. 22 Oct 2012

I first encountered Daniel Clarke’s direction when I reviewed his 2002 production of The Seagull at the Bakehouse.  I noted a director who would go on to do greater work when I cheekily wrote, “Perhaps when Daniel Clarke is director-in-residence at the Moscow Art Theatre fifteen years from now…”  Not quite Moscow, but he is creative producer/CEO of Theatre Works in St Kilda, and in the intervening decade, Clarke has directed numerous plays in Melbourne, Adelaide and London, and won the Ruby Award for Community Impact by transforming the Feast Festival as Artistic Director in 2007.

Pornography is a director’s and actors’ wet dream.  English playwright Simon Stephens is writing for the newly hip of Great Britain and Germany where his plays are ever so popular.  The esoterically titled Pornography is a tribute to the lives lost in the London bus and tube bombings – just a day after it was announced that London got the 2012 Olympic Games.  We see a brace of scenes of people touched by the disaster – most from mere inconvenience to one of the bombers.  But in each scene somebody does something maybe they shouldn’t have, or out of their character, maybe like the bomber.  Stephens challenges director, cast and crew by providing no stage notes and by inviting any sequence of scenes or number of actors.  And Daniel Clarke and his team most definitely rise to the challenge.

The acting is better than spot on.  The opening monologue by the gracious Ansuya Nathan is mesmerising.  Her command of body and soul to stretch out every nuance of a line was scintillating.  Carmel Johnson, Nick Pelomis and Matt Crook all show great virtuosity playing diverse characters.  The employed British Isle accents enhanced the authenticity. 

Clarke weaves a complete sensorial theatrical experience.  The main riser is a tube station platform (Wendy Todd – designer).  Behind a large screen, the actors select their costume for the next scene from a stage-wide rack of clothes – these are later folded and put away leaving an empty rack when snippets of the eulogies of the 52 slain are read out as in a roll call.  There is a yellow line not to cross.  Jason Sweeney composed nearly two hours of music and helped shape the tone of the text by developing the soundscape with the actors.  Clarke coached each actor with their lengthy monologues – a level of care not frequently performed.  In The Seagull review, I asked Clarke to focus on the story.  In Pornography, he most certainly has.  Bravo!          

David Grybowski

When: 18 to 27 Oct
Where: Space Theatre