RAW: SEX ON STAGE!!! – 121 and Slicing and Dicing

Given this reviewer was not the only person in this city to regard last night’s opening shows of 121 and Slicing and Dicing as the potential for a sex filled double header, I thought they should also be reviewed together.

Early Worx’s 121 is based around Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets where four characters, the writer himself (Jordan Fraser-Trumble), a fair friend (Tom St Jack), a dark lady (Brittany Plummer) and a rival poet (Philip Harker-Smith) indulge in unfettered lust and love making – man to man, man to woman, men to woman.

While set in medieval times, director Charles Sanders spices up the action (if such was needed) with heavy underground music to give it all a modern touch.

The premise of taking the great bard’s sonnets, slicing them up to create its own new narrative and presenting with a modern feel is bold, ambitious if not entirely original theatre. However, on this occasion, the results, like the loving making, are mixed.

Set in Higher Ground’s main auditorium, the first problem encountered was the stage. Where so much action occurs in the horizontal plane, having a stage that is not elevated from the audience’s chairs means front row patrons only get to see it all. The desire to maximise the spaces available in the room for the various sub stages had to be curtailed against the needs of the audience to participate in the production. Using the main stage with strong use of lights to divide up the spaces would have been very much more successful.

Then there was the handling of the poetry. Unless they are enmeshed daily in the language, audiences need time to get their Shakespeare ears on and working, often achieved through some moderately lengthy opening monologues. This is doubly so when poetry is the substance. Here, what dialogue there was early happened somewhat briefly and then often in competition with the doof doof. At some point one just gives up in favour of trying to wrestle with what is happening on stage (which was challenging enough.)

One hour later and one mile east, Duende Theatre’s Slicing and Dicing at the Bakehouse opened with Eddie Morrsion’s engaging performance as Eli the sleazy game show host or the host of a sleazy game show – it matters little – ably assisted in gold bikinis by Laura Brenko and Amy Brooks who are more than suitably equipped for their roles.

The Duende people wisely make it clear in all their blurbs that potential patrons should ‘B’ ready – B that is for Boobs, Balls, Blood and Buttocks. Those warnings should not be ignored as something the PR crowd now foist on every type of performance. Pamela Munt, has also wisely required her stage be covered top to toe in plastic, including the patrons in the first four rows.

For after Eli exits the scene, Bridge (Sam Caleja – possessed of quite some wonderful manic flourishes) his mate, Kor (Eliot Howard) and audience member Ben (Nic Krieg) (you will remember him, at least until the end, for his bottom) set about a madness all targeted at the strung up and helpless Lucy (Dee Easton).

Assisted by live music (again well protected behind plastic sheets) played by Nick Russell and Cameron Sanderson, the ‘gargantuan, blood soaked, ambitious horror / absurdist / protest / comedy’ lets rip ending in a scene of twitching carnage and gore (including Eli and his girls, now stripped down for the finale) that would shame the most acclaimed and ambitious schlock movie directors.

This is all great fun and one can only imagine the rehearsals were a treat to be involved in. Peter Dunn’s direction is spot on, all the cast warm to their tasks and the music and effects bring it all home. For long periods, one may muse this is just an undergrad production, but by the end the scope of the whole including the various performances confirm this is something much more (even if your opera crowd may not see much merit in it!)

A reprise season at the Fringe would be a certain hit.

Slicing and Dicing – 4K

PS   It would be remiss of this reviewer not to mention the abysmal behaviour of one female member of the 121 audience who took to texting on her i-phone for most of the show’s time, including receiving messages without her phone being on silent (not that that is acceptable either.) The rudeness of this, especially for the cast who had worked long and hard to produce the performance (according to the producer’s notes over two years) cannot be properly measured. If this rant seems a little after the fact, relax, as a number of audience members bailed her up during and after the show and made the same point. She seemed not to understand the angst and disappeared back across Light Square to the Feast festivities, fortunately saving those who headed for the Bakehouse from further distraction. What a dork!

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