Don’t judge me: Griffin’s Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography

From the promotional blurb and with a title like Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography, you could perhaps be forgiven for expecting, well, just about anything. Contrary to popular belief, the play has very little to do with the actual physicality of pornography than with the repercussions or perceived stigma that accompanies it (Griffin has issued a disclaimer on their website, apologising for the lack of pornography in the production). True, one character does download eight gigabytes of hardcore pornography, but it is an incidental (albeit crucial) detail in Declan Greene’s bold, uncompromising and fearless play, co-presented here by Griffin and Perth Theatre Company.
If you’ve ever been the Griffin’s Stables theatre, you’ll know there’s nowhere to hide on that tiny diamond stage – for performers, or for the audience. In Greene’s play – as in Lee Lewis’ direction and Matthew Marshall’s lighting, this intimacy and all-seeingness is amplified; the house-lights stay up for most of the seventy-minutes’ running time, and are carefully calibrated to subliminally draw us into moments of unexpected honesty.

A two-hander, it takes the form of near-direct audience address, a diegetic mode of storytelling not dissimilar to that seen in ‘The Bull’ or This Is Where We Live at Griffin last year. Performed by Andrea Gibbs and Steve Rodgers – who are simply known as One (Female) and Two (Male) in the script – the play is based, in part, on anonymous confessions found on the internet, and is the kind of raw emotional rollercoaster of honesty which disarms you and gets under your skin and makes you want to scratch. You might flinch, but you cannot hide, nor can you run – you sit, like a small animal, caught in the headlights, as they share their darkest desires, secrets, fears, and hopes, as they bare their soles and themselves for all to see. Both of them are stuck in loops, grooves on a skipping record, again again again again again: she’s a nurse, trapped in a never-ending cycle of crippling debt, while he’s in IT, trapped in a nightly loop of porn-trawling and masturbation. Yet, they both crave something else, something they can’t quite articulate or enunciate, clearly or at all, and it is this struggle, this desperate attempt to reach out, that we are witness to, that we recognise in ourselves.
Greene’s writing is, at times, ferocious in its unrelenting plumbing of our ‘hidden’ selves, and is quite darkly funny in an almost inappropriate way. The last scene in particular, a verbal dart game of confessions from the depths of our souls, is simultaneously outrageous and humbling, confronting yet twisted; yet, despite its absurdity, we can identify with (perhaps more than) several of ‘their’ confessions, and it is this identifying with these two nameless figures that grounds Greene’s play so frighteningly thoroughly in our own mad crazy world.
Staged upon Marg Horwell’s lusciously shagpile-carpeted set, with Marshall’s lighting in rich pinks, harsh whites and turquoise, and Rachael Dease’s playful, innocent and emotional composition, Lewis’ vision of ‘Eight Gigabytes’ is one of optimism, warmth, humanity and, pertinently, a non-judgmental view of these characters, of us. Importantly, as an audience, we are drawn (or thrust headfirst) into this world but we never lose sight of who these people are, for that is what they are, people, like us, trying to live with ourselves, let alone others, with all our sweaty, strange, lonely and barely-concealed quirks. As Lewis writes in her Director’s Notes, and as Greene and all of us are only all-too-well aware, sometimes the only way to cope with or make sense of the unknowable and unquantifiable boundaries and depths of human desires and needs is to laugh. And laugh we do – at them, at you, at us, at ourselves – but only for so long as we are aware of why we are laughing; if we don’t laugh, or even if we stop, we’ll only get dragged under, and we’ll lose sight of the people at the heart of the story. Us.

Theatre playlist: 25. Somebody to Love, Queen

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