Review: Sex / Crime
Jonny Woo and Alexis Gregory - photo by Matt Spike
Jonny Woo - A
Alexis Gregory - B
"Everything else is tumbling down Falling apart
But not you and me
You and me are going to hold tight
You and me are just right".
What's happening in the capital - behind the darkest of closed doors?
You're about to find out!
As two men meet, in a fractured and divided city, and come together to recreate the killings of a famous gay serial killer - for their own pleasure … and the right price.
But what they don't know about each other, and what they don't know about themselves, might change their lives forever …
Following its sell-out run at alternative East End queer venue The Glory, Sex/Crime comes to Soho Theatre.
An exciting, challenging play that explores sex, violence, language, fear and queerness.
Sex/Crime stars celebrated performance artist Jonny Woo and acclaimed playwright Alexis Gregory (SLAP and SAFE) who also wrote it.
Sex/Crime contains scenes and themes of an adult nature.
Director Robert Chevara describes this play as a "mixture of treacle-black humour, insanity and life at the edge of delirium", adding that it is also "an atomic bomb of theatrical power, daring and the pursuit of desire and fulfilment at any cost."
There's much in that description that has the valid ring of truth for the play does contain a streak of very dark humour, especially when set alongside the basic set-up - a man's desire to recreate the unnervingly dastardly work of a gay serial killer.
You may well conclude from the foregoing then, that this is a construct which is hardly for the faint-hearted, even if there's a dollop of humour permeating the basic storyline.
But the play stops short of displaying the reality of its overall subject, sparing the audience the need to gaze at violent and (many might consider) unsavoury activities.
The comic elements of the writing here harbour some resemblance to the work of playwright Joe Orton, who himself fell victim to a violent and bloody end at the hands of his gay lover and would, I'm sure, have found the big idea here filled with enticingly comic possibilities.
Acting in his own play, Alexis Gregory takes on a character simply known as 'B'.
He's come along to the 'playroom' of 'A', played by Jonny Woo, who offers a 'premium service' catering for the desires of clients who wish to indulge in various forms of masochism.
No wonder then that the sofa is covered in plastic and the back wall is similarly adorned with curtains made from the same washable material - after all, we wouldn't want to get blood on the furnishings, would we?
Initially, A is in tight control of proceedings, with his first port of call on the agenda curiously and comically focused on admin and his 'professional standards'.
Even so, his methodical focus on more routine matters still allows him to throw the odd kick or punch at B while he's filling out his bureaucratic forms.
Alexis Gregory lends an immature, almost child-like quality to B's persona - a caricature that sits oddly with Mr Gregory's impressively muscled torso that I suspect had some audience members drooling in admiration and leaving some despairing at their own efforts in the gym.
Perhaps the B we find in the early stages of the play is contriving naivety to deliberately wrong-foot the seemingly more dominant and self-assured A, which seems a more plausible rationale given events that come later.
There's certainly a strong steak of invention in the overall concept in this work which, as Robert Chevara describes, is daring in its portrayal of the extremes people might (and do?) go to in the pursuit of fulfilment.
But, overall, the humour is disappointingly patchy given the rich potential of the subject matter and the setting, even though there are some deliciously quirky lines along the way that provide genuinely laugh-out-loud moments.
Moreover, the final section is muddied - perhaps deliberately so - with the hurried and unresolved introduction of issues that clouded the play's overarching intentions.
So the 'theatrical power' of the piece is ultimately reduced, even if there's still ample dramatic meat to be provocative and controversial.
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