Pornography – Simon Stephens

This will post very close to the anniversary of 7/7, and we are just a few days out from a terror attack in Tunisia that has, so far, claimed the lives of 30 British tourists. The latter is a sorrowful reminder that we need more responses, questions, ideas, even wails of blind confusion, to react to, cope with, and remain feeling through this unique and devastating human plague.

Pornography was written in reaction to the Tube bombings of 7 July 2005. I am American and can quickly tap into the held breath, clammy hands, terrified, disbelieving, impotent shock which mirrored our feelings on September 11, 2001. But in spite of what those two events share, and the broad stroke similarities between life in the US and the UK, there is a cultural chasm between us that yawns open at such a horror. It may start with a different, more ingrained significance to foreign bombs on British soil, but it is exposed in the way the rhythms of daily life unravel under the strain of this type of crisis, the million threads of tightly women cloth fraying and breaking. Those tiny threads are different in the UK than in the US, and without being steeped in it, a representation of a cultural reaction to a historic terror is hard to parse. And that’s before you get to Stephens’ text, which is, of itself, hard to parse.

Pornography starts with the best production note ever: “This play can be performed with any number of actors. It can be performed in any order.” And then you read it and understand how hard it will be to make fulfilling decisions and execute the play with power.

I’m not sure I could get this play right. This is really a script for which a national sensibility is necessary. Yes, it does capture the chaos of such a disruptive event. My disappointment in the script was that it did not make me feel. This may be a case of, ‘you have to see it.’ And if there’s ever a chance for me to catch a production, I will. I would love to close the chasm a little.

Cast: n (where n is any positive integer). Run Time: 90-100 min? There are a lot of pages dense with text. And there’s space in there. Synopsis: Reaction to the 2005 London bombings.

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One comment

  1. anotherwisemonkey · July 5, 2015

    This is very interesting. I hadn’t heard of this play and will look it up, so thank you for sharing your views. Through my job working with young people I wrote and directed a short play on 7/7 called Into the Darkness: A Life Interrupted. It had the emotional quality you feel is missing from this text. There’s a poor quality video of it on YouTube somewhere, but it’s still powerful. Would you like me to send you the link?

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