Theatre People review: “Flirt Fiction”, Oct 2012

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A review I wrote for Theatre People, of Blue Room production Flirt Fiction.

Red Rabbit Collective, Perth’s sexiest new performance ensemble, brings their new show Flirt Fiction home to Australia, fresh off the back of a run in Edinburgh.

The show is a web of seductive tales woven around two competitive writers, Ana (Kathryn Delaney) and Henry (Lawrence Ashford). The two friends set each other a new writing challenge: sensual fiction. Each writer must attempt to write erotica. Henry accuses Ana of being uptight, and Ana tells Henry that sex isn’t all about penetration. They each struggle to take on the challenge, facing up to their personal taboos and secret fantasies. Centred in their sensual scenes is the waitress from their coffee shop, played by Zoe Cooper. The writers craft their characters in her image, and she becomes goddess, whore, dominatrix, whatever they need her to be.

Flirt Fiction production still, courtesy Angela H King
Zoe Cooper and Kathryn Delaney flirt with fiction.

Flirt Fiction is an interesting exploration of erotica, and how we craft our fantasies. With a strong script by Jessica Craig-Piper, the show explores the vulgar and the obvious in erotica, then goes deeper, reflecting on how our identities inform our consumption of sex. Woven through the story is a sweet thread of romance, which elevates the play from a collection of vulgar sketches and creates an engaging narrative.

Ashford is the stand-out performer of the show; he had the audience from his opening monologue and held them right through the play. Delaney, too, gave a strong performance and played her character with an admirable mix of strength and vulnerability. Cooper was perhaps the least engaging; although she gave a brave performance as the muse who is stripped of her clothes and bent into any position the others wish, she was somehow too brittle, and not terribly convincing as a flirt.

On the night this reviewer watched the play, it was unfortunate that the audience was not terribly responsive. There were a few murmurs of laughs at some of the naughty jokes, but mostly just the tense silence of an uncomfortable audience. While Ashford’s comic timing was spot-on, Delaney and Cooper missed a few chances for laughs, so that the energy fell flat. Unfortunately, the biggest laugh came in the middle of a heartfelt monologue about bestiality and rape, which was clearly intended to be an emotional peak in the story. Instead, the audience was left chuckling and hoping for relief from the confronting sound effects. The play’s finale was undercut by The Blue Room Studio’s black box set-up, which means that the actors freeze in their final position, then immediately unfreeze and wave goodbye to the audience. Awkward.

Despite some setbacks, this show is enjoyable and intensely interesting. Although not, perhaps, for the faint-hearted. At the end of the show, a man loudly said to his friend ‘I did NOT like that’, and two young women from the front row were evidently most concerned that they were going to be hit in the face by a strap-on dildo. It seems the show did not ‘find its audience’ that night. But if you can get past the graphic sexuality and the desire to giggle like a schoolgirl, then you’ll find Flirt Fiction a rewarding experience.

Flirt Fiction is showing at The Blue Room until Saturday 22 October.

Read this review and heaps of other up-to-the-minute info about Australian theatre on TheatrePeople.com.au

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