Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography
By Declan Greene
Perth Theatre Company/Griffin Theatre Company
State Theatre Centre
REVIEW DAVID ZAMPATTI
The title of Declan Greene's Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography doesn't tell its story, though it's not irrelevant to it. What it is about is truth, happiness, and how bitter and elusive they can be.
The play is set in 14 vignettes, each introduced simply by the announcement of the number - co-incidentally an almost identical device to that employed recently in Tyler Jacob Jones' impressive F*@k Decaf. Like it, Greene's play flows seamlessly across these divides, often without even stopping for breath, giving his story an impressive momentum throughout 80-odd minutes.
A man (Steve Rodgers) and a woman (Andrea Gibbs) connect on a chat site. He, we learn, is an unhappily married IT worker with a grubby, though not especially depraved or dangerous, addiction to porn. She is a single mother of two, a hard-working nurse, with a brutal ex-husband and a compulsive need to shop. He has his laptop and his external hard drives, she her maxed-out credit cards. What they have in common is an overdose of self-loathing. An early scene when they pile epithets on themselves - stupid, fat, ugly, pathetic, old and boring - is as revealing as it is brutal.
There's much dark comedy in these early scenes; the man's increasingly forlorn attempts to engage with women online, and the woman's clumsy replies, are perversely hilarious, as are their excruciating first meeting and a desperately doomed attempt at sex. But there's no escaping their desolation, their wretched neediness and the power of the forces, external and internal, arrayed against them.
These are people who very likely should never have met and their battle to save themselves and, maybe, each other, is uphill all the way.
Greene has a great feel for language and imagery, and both his monologues and dialogue light up the gloom that overhangs his story. Director Lee Lewis is clearly in sympathy with his writing and with the actors she has cast to perform it.
Rodgers inhabits the man with remarkable ease. There's something familiar about him, in part because at times he is reminiscent of Louis CK, and even Kenneth Branagh's Kurt Wallander, but mainly because his character is so knowable through him. It's a striking, memorable performance.
By trade a comedian and improviser, Gibbs has taken on a part that would require great skill and courage from the most experienced of actors, and she succeeds admirably.
Gibbs is fortunate to have a colleague as supportive as Rogers to work alongside and a director as sure-handed as Lewis to bring her strengths forward. She's also blessed with a script that often works close to stand-up comedy. It's an interesting confluence of styles that gives Gibbs many opportunities to shine. She has every reason to be proud of her performance.
Desperately sad and unflinchingly honest, powerfully written and performed, the first collaboration between the Perth Theatre Company and Lewis's Griffin Theatre Company has uploaded eight gigabytes of hardcore theatre.
Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography ends on July 12.