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Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography @ Studio Underground

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2/7/14

By Samuel J. Cox

Presented by the Perth Theatre Company (WA’s longest running company) and NSW’s Griffin Theatre Company, this challenging and confronting work from award-winning young playwright Declan Greene reaches Perth audiences courtesy of the City of Perth Winter Arts Season.

Andrea Gibbs (co-founder of Barefaced Stories) plays a mother of two and mindless consumer, ignoring overdue debts and threats of repossession. She seeks security from a relationship. Steve Rodgers plays a compulsive liar and porn addict whose marriage has foundered. Sad and alone, they are both desperate to be close to someone, anyone, so they become reluctant participants in the online dating world.

Directed by Griffin’s Artistic Director Lee Lewis, the two middle–aged actors restlessly pace the stage as the audience take their brightly lit seats. These remain illuminated for much of the play, and the actors rarely interact with one another, instead alternately addressing the audience in monologues.

The set was simple, only a long shimmering carpet and two chairs, which gave the actors nowhere to hide. They delivered outstanding, convincing performances in demanding roles that will undoubtedly take an emotional toll.

One will recognise elements of both characters in one self, but the play is exhausting, as the unlikeable, whinging characters wallow in self-pity, -loathing and -deprecation. A little over an hour, without interval, it is an intense look into the lives of the defeated and drowning, interjected with a few cringe-comedy ‘jokes’ that received relieved laughter.

It was the most uncomfortable theatre experience I’ve ever endured, and I wasn’t alone in squirming in my seat. The play is an exercise in ‘grief porn’. The audience is immersed in the suffering and misery of others, and it is tiresome and undesirable. They dream of happiness and a new life, but make no effort to take control of their situation and create the change they crave. They deserve compassion, rather than condemnation, but I cannot offer it. As Hunter S. Thompson wrote, ‘no one has to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you had to do it. You’ll have lots of company.’

Greene’s outstanding work is truly observant writing, but makes for heavy thought fodder. It will force you to consider where you are, and where you want to be in life. As a young man, it caused me to think about my future and consider a version in which everything doesn’t go as planned. It filled me with fear and uncertainty.

Be warned: unlike in certain stores in Northbridge, there are no happy endings to be found here. The raw content, and full-frontal nudity, will severely affront the conservative viewer

Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography runs until July 12.

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