In so far as it’s good for a play to leave you in need of purgation, Luke Owen’s debut is a cracker and has won him the Finborough’s Papatango New Writing Prize. But the subject matter of the play soils you all the same: child porn. Mercifully the porn is viewed through the eyes of a digital analyst who tracks child abuse online for the police. Owen’s gift is for writing highly naturalistic dialogue sodden with the familiarities of ‘mate’ and ‘buddy’. His theme meanwhile is about having to view child porn, how it desensitises all involved and poisons their lives.
Owen’s thesis is not terribly surprising and, for all the play’s sureness of intention it is, in the end, a rather conventional issue based drama offering no answers and holding no great metaphorical significance about society at large. Instead, Justin Audibert’s admirably crafted production is grounded squarely in the characters’ monotonous reality. In keeping with this, Georgia Lowe’s ingenious traverse set design is fitted with secret lights and cupboards buried beneath a grid of office carpet tiles: an environment wholly antithetical to the joy of life.
The acting meanwhile is immaculately naturalistic with John Hodgkinson as a gentle giant who is holding down his day job of planning rendezvous with Wagon Wheel biscuits and cups of tea, while building model aircrafts at night. George Turvey is, in turn, a blissfully institutionalised and chummy boss. But the play’s main man is Ronan Raftery: an idealistic IT consultant who is a living oxymoron. He thinks he can handle the porn, but finds that his work throws up an invisible wall between him and Eleanor Wyld – cast as the feisty girly he meets speed dating. Subtle and commendable as play and acting are, they are overpowered by the toxic subject.
By Patrick Marmion