Comic goes hardcore
Andrea Gibbs. Picture: Brett Boardman

Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography may be a "click-bait" title to draw in an audience but actor Andrea Gibbs says it has caused the producers' marketing emails to run foul of net-nanny filters.

"It might have been working against them because of the censoring," Gibbs says of the name, taken from a line in Declan Greene's latest play.

She is quick to add that, despite the provocative name and some nudity, the co-production from the Griffin and Perth Theatre companies is less about pornography and more about the loveless loneliness that leads people there in the first place.

The play follows two alienated, unnamed midlife strangers who meet through an online dating site.

Gibbs plays a nurse with two kids, an abusive husband and a maxed-out credit card from her online shopping addiction. Sydney character actor Steve Rodgers is a miserably married IT worker trapped in his own cycle of nightly porn-trawling.

Directed by Griffin artistic director Lee Lewis and with music from Perth composer Rachael Dease, the play is top-and-tailed, with each character playing tennis with lines of confessional dialogue drawn anonymously from real chat sites.

"A lot of people have been coming out of the play feeling a bit beaten up, I think," Gibbs says. "Even if you can't really see yourself in the two characters, you just cannot escape from the secrets and truths that we all hide.

"The audience are lit as well so it is pretty confronting for them. If you are looking at each other, you can clearly see how people react to something that is said."

So if it's so tough on the audience, why would anyone want to go to see it?

"It is something that is so different. It is just such brilliant writing and the way Declan and Lee have worked with us to create the piece. It has got such great momentum behind it. The audience are sitting there for just over an hour and engage the whole way through. It is really such a great mix of storytelling and interaction with the audience."

There is plenty of humour in the play to ease the painful exposure of human frailty, according to Gibbs. "Steve and I are a really good comic duo and there is that funniness and cringe-worthiness in it," she says.

Audiences in Perth who best know Gibbs as a stand-up comedian, improv performer with the Big Hoo Haa or from her 2007-08 stint on 96fm might find her dramatic role a revelation. That was how one national reviewer described her performance in the Sydney premiere last month, as well as calling it "maddening, oddly gallant and incredibly touching".

The production comes to the State Theatre Centre next month after a season in Canberra. Gibbs says the script grabbed her immediately. "I knew straight away that if I didn't get the part I would desperately have wanted to see it," she says.

She adds that the play is confronting but not because of any explicit pornographic visual content. The spoken language is unapologetically frank and raw, and so is the extent of the characters' psychological and emotional exposure in confessional monologues straight to the audience.

"As characters they are really stripping bare and the nudity comes at a moment when they have been hiding so many truths from each other. It is as poetic moment when they are really exposing themselves and saying 'This is me, I'm fat, I'm ugly, I'm stupid. This is me.' It is getting away from faking it. Why do we have all these insecurities that we carry with us. It is a really beautiful moment."

For Donnybrook-born Gibbs, who studied theatre at Curtin University and has worked with Barking Gecko and PTC before, the role has rekindled her desire to do more acting. "To make a living in Perth as an artist, I have had to make my own work and I do that through comedy and Barefaced Stories. I can't afford to be an actor sitting by the phone waiting for projects to fall in my lap.

"This has made me hungry for more dramatic roles and I have been meeting people over here. I love Perth and it would be lovely to straddle the Nullarbor and work in Perth and Sydney."

Greene's play has generated a buzz among the theatrical establishment, including Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett who met Gibbs backstage after the show. "She loved it. We made her cry."

Greene, a 29-year-old Melbourne playwright, has called his play a cringe-comedy of midlife loneliness. The two characters were painfully human: needy, vulnerable and very cruel, he said. "And even if people don't like them, I hope they'll at least recognise them."

The West Australian

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