Sex Play

Adelaide Duende Collective. Blackbox at the Bakehouse Theatre. 9 Nov 2012

If you are coming to the Bakehouse to be titillated by a conventional little sex romp, then you will be shocked by Sex Play. If you want to be challenged, provoked into thinking beneath the sheets, and want to see three very good young actors bring together an abstract concept looking at a range of disturbing sexual images and hard core sexual vignettes - then the current Blackbox production will have something to offer you.

Alan Grace has not written a standard through line script, but more a long poem (not your nice little read at a soiree). A tough, three-way narrated action piece that explores a Pandora’s box of explicit and provocative sex experiences; in brothels; between teenagers; between a father and his young daughter; and between consenting adults. It is a seemingly random collection of experiences - shards of recollection both nasty and nice - stored in the memory attics of the characters revealed by the three actors, their reflections presented to the audience for it to accept, refute or judge.

The script is a vehicle for the director, actors, and the designer to present a challenging theatre experience that crosses between dance drama, narrated action, and dramatic poetry. It is a catalogue of sexual perversions and peccadillos. Cruelly beautiful.

Director Dee Easton brings the best out of her three actors in a fast paced, richly developed performance, that makes the most of the script, the body language of three very agile actors and the set - yet seems invisible. Easton’s direction is tight and effective.

Jenn Havelberg, the designer and choreographer, has developed a set that reflects the shards of memory; a double mattress; three large struts balanced precariously around the space; a floor covered in coloured paper ‘dust’; a remarkable translucent cube upstage centre that is effectively used by each actor during the production; and a sort of cube womb that reminded me of the embryo floating in space in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The three actors move fluidly around and through this intriguing set which at one and the same time represents a brothel, a site for child molestation, and a place for several proverbial sexual wrestling matches.

The lighting and sound design is striking; the lighting in particular, in its complexity, given the restrictions of the Studio. The soundscape is delicate, evocative, and the breaking glass motif is chilling.

The company blurb reads: “Three of Adelaide’s best young actors… Laura Brenko, Amy Victoria Brooks, and Nathan Porteus”, and this certainly rings true. Brenko, with her ability for hard edged, in your face, character development and mature vocal narration; Brooks, with her flirtatious sensuality but cutting vocality; and Porteus, with his physical strength and gender crossing vocal range. The three blended together supremely well. What intrigued me most was the creditable verity of each actor’s gender bending during the production, seeming to flick in and out of male/female personas with ease, and all dressed in delicate pink female nighties, corsets and stockings (even Porteus).

Suddenly the sixty minutes is up. No resolution. No neat tying up of loose ends. As one of the characters says: “The night is coming and I have blood on my finger”. This is no light sex romp, but a serious look at the darker side of sex and the sexual act.

Martin Christmas

When: 7 to 24 Nov
Where: Bakehouse Theatre
Bookings: bakehousetheatre.com