Yes, yes, the title’s salacious. That’s the point. This is theatre, and theatre is at its best when it challenges. Be reassured, though (or disappointed), you won’t be watching any simulation of hardcore porn in Q Loft this week.
The trick is not to read the note on the seats until afterwards. You can, of course, but it’s rather like fast forwarding through Game of Thrones to see who dies at the end. That said, when you do, it just adds another layer of interest on this engaging production.
Two middle-aged people struggle in their pursuit of happiness. He waits up till 1am for his wife to go to bed to get his fix of porn. She, abandoned by her husband, and held in contempt by her children, fleetingly sates her hunger for human connection at the local mall, then does extra shifts at work to service her credit card debt.
Both have become adept at saying things that people find acceptable to hear, and yet, as much as they lie, they are driven by a desire to confess. Their desperate hope is for someone to see them as they really are, and love them all the same. Despite this, they are incapable of offering that same unconditional love in return. Years of unhappiness have turned them both completely inward and incapable of reaching out to anything but their own intangible but perfect fantasies. Life is a desert, and their dreams a mirage.
Andi Crown Photography
Bronwyn Bradley completely inhabits The Woman, hunching over, trying not to take up space, a shift in the position of her chin turning her demeanour from witch-like cunning, to motherly warmth. She is dogged and courageous in her determination to make things work. Mark Wright plays The Man with subtlety, finding the humour and throwing it away. If I have a criticism of him, it is in not letting himself go a little for the role. It takes bravery to reveal your physical imperfections on stage: his solution was to avoid having any. When it came to the crunch they have both held back a little; nevertheless, they both still offered generous, detailed, sympathetic performances that draw the audience in.
The set is simple, cold, and exposing: two large frosted panels with a gap in the middle where the characters sometimes intersect but never connect. A television plays behind the screens; it can barely be made out. A bench in front completes the set. While somewhat unappealing, in conjunction with the excellent sound and lighting the set serves, and exposes, the actors effectively without being intrusive.
Award-winning writer Declan Greene explores the gulf between fantasy and reality – a gulf that with the internet seems more brutally wide than ever – with assurance and intelligence, and the script is very funny at times, despite its bleakness. It is compelling to watch, but I would venture that Greene’s preoccupation with being found deserving of love is a more acute condition amongst the young than the middle-aged. For the real youth the angst is at least offset by energy, freedom and good skin; for most of the middle-aged, again I venture, there comes self-acceptance and a more defined sense of purpose.
These two characters inhabit the worst of all worlds – they are, I imagine, Greene’s worst nightmare of what the future holds – and it's a pessimistic world view. And yet, we relate to these characters, as most of us I would think have inhabited these dark places at some point, and the painful desire to be loved by someone out-of-your-league is a universal one.
I suspect in Sydney, with the original ending, I would have cried more. But no matter, as Laurel Devenie has put together a cohesive, high-quality production absolutely worth seeing.