Sex With Strangers
Brisbane Powerhouse, Thomas Larkin & Troy Armstrong Management
Powerhouse Visy Theatre
February 11 – 21 2015
Reviewed by Xanthe Coward
Thomas Larkin is Ethan, a sex blogger turned book author who falls in lust with Veronica Neave’s Olivia, a gifted and complicated novelist. When they meet at a writer’s retreat, romance and the digital age collide, as the pair confronts the dark side of ambition and the near-impossibility of reinventing oneself when the past is just a click away.
NOMINATED Silver Matilda Award – Best Independent Production
NOMINATED Silver Matilda Award – Best Male Actor in a Leading Role
NOMINATED Silver Matilda Award – Best Female Actor in a Leading Role
Laura Eason’s Sex With Strangers was one of last year’s hottest shows and it’s back! Well, only for another couple of performances, but I’m sure you heard about it already and went right ahead and booked! DIDN’T YOU? If you missed it last time, as I did due to Noosa Long Weekend Festival commitments, and you’ve missed it a second time, you’re a fool.
This is an incredibly neat and deep (as in thought provoking… THOUGHT PROVOKING. WHO ARE YOU?) little show that absolutely deserves the attention it’s attracted thus far. And if recent funding round success stories are anything to go by, it deserves not only this return season but a solid national tour. It’s been the most talked about show of 2014! If you do manage to catch it before it closes on Sunday, you’ll need to stop by the bar for plenty of that lovely Rymill Dark Horse. If you’re not drinking, too bad; it will be like re-watching the first season of Sex and the City without cigarettes and coffee on hand. You may come away shaking. Just saying.
Coming away (without shaking, more like melting) from this one, I realised just how much I’d enjoyed seeing a “real” play, and not a musical or a comedy or a cabaret or any variation thereof, but a straight-up play, boasting a succinctly written, completely compelling and challenging story delivered by two terrific, totally honest actors bathed in beautiful light (Jason Glenwright & Tim Gawne) and sound (Dane Alexander) in a sharply designed space that actually serves the purpose and structure of the play (Troy Armstrong). Yep. I’m actually that easy to please. Get all the elements right and you got me. All the elements here are exquisitely balanced in simple, beautiful assembly, making this show a special little sexy treat, not unlike the goodie bag Sam brought home after the Fifty Shades of Grey preview event at Event Cinemas last week. (Edmo & Ash; I KNOW YOU ALSO HAVE GOODIE BAGS! BUT YOUR SECRET IS SAFE WITH ME!). Um. Thanks ever so, Totally Adult. Delightful. You can never be sure what will come out of the bag next! Experience it yourself!
It’s no secret that I love Thom Larkin. Like, I LOVE Thom Larkin. Is there actually anybody who doesn’t? (If there is they’re JEALOUSSSSS).
I ‘reckon we can safely say that Larkin is Australia’s answer to Alexander Skarsgard, with more than a passing resemblance given the right pool of luscious light, and, clearly, the same level of dedication when it comes to maintenance. He’s finally settled into his sun shy skin in Sex With Strangers (Is he goddamn GLISTENING? Like the OTHER OTHER VAMPIRE?). Larkin perfectly embodies the irresistibly brash blogger turned book writer, Ethan, who has made the title of show his, er, business…and pleasure for a year.
Paired with the slightly shy, sweet and suddenly sassy properly writerly character created by Veronica Neave, these two radiate the pure unadulterated joy and LUST you wish you’d discovered in Fifty Shades (don’t worry, you didn’t miss it; in Fifty Shades this brand of magnetic attraction doesn’t exist!).
Eason’s script has Neave’s complicated character stay quite cold towards Ethan Strange for some time, and Jennifer Flowers’ slick, unencumbered direction keeps Neave at some distance from him until we get to the inevitable romp and removal of shirts and pants and all of those boring inhibitions and what ifs and oh no; I can’t…but I could…oh wait I want to…okay I will! (She’s not silly, and she’s certainly not naive – well, perhaps a little – but she’s certainly conflicted. There is the age difference, there are Internet and IP issues…well, whatever. The thirty-somethings know what I’m talking about!). The frequent sexual interludes (in which Lisa Wilson has had a hand, no pun intended, obvs, but really, seriously; how does he flip Neave like that?!), are just glimpses of what you might imagine happens next, very tastefully, very artfully done. Each teaser is just enough to curl up the corners of your lips (and maybe your toes. WHO ARE YOU?) and inhale the quick, quiet breath you think you’ll have to hold…and then the lights fade and the deceptively simple plot continues with a beat change worthy of senior theatre syllabus inclusion. No, really! Is there a better, clearer example? (You’re right. There’s going to be a more appropriate one…). But wait for the twist! Not altogether surprising, it nevertheless comes as a shock, and we have to reconsider (or not!) our – a-hem – feelings for the sexy rock star blogger boy. Poor Olivia.
WHAT WOULD SOOKIE DO?
Warning: some viewers may experience several degrees of frustration by this stage of the play… Sex With Strangers is quite simply The. Hottest. Show. To. Hit. The. Visy.
There might be a few bewildering mixed messages for our younger viewers, but let’s not examine too closely the free love/tap that/blog this/steal that/Tweet this/Facebook that/publish this/claim that/consensual v non-consensual content. Let’s just dive on in and enjoy the STORY and the CHARACTERS and the PASSION, shall we? (And there is well-matched passion on many levels). It’s much more fun that way, like enjoying while it lasts, an illicit affair with a gorgeous someone who has a thing for very public places. What?
If you think there’s a more electrifying connection between two actors on stage during the love month of February you must be at the Lyric Theatre. Larkin and Neave need to fly with this one, and take it everywhere. It’s too hot to keep here. Share the love! Don’t we all desire theatre as thrilling as sex with strangers Sex With Strangers?!
Today (Friday) at 7pm
Tomorrow (Saturday) at 2pm & 7pm
Sunday at 4pm