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Shopping and Fucking at the Silo Theatre

Thu 27 May 2004 In: Performance

Shopping and Fucking Dir: Stuart Devenie Silo Theatre, Auckland. In a world where everything has a $value everything is $devalued. Interactions become transactions and, as the creepily philosophical Brian drums into his vulnerable victims in Shopping and Fucking, civilisation equals money. At the start of Brit playwright Mark Ravenhill's brittle, intense play the bleak little world of sex, drugs and junk food inhabited by 20-somethings Lulu, Robbie and Mark is falling apart. Mark, his drug-addicted body deep in toxic overload and his mind trapped in enough personal issues to feed a decade of Shortland Street eps, is quitting the well-meaning but ineffective care of his lover Robbie and Robbie's ex-girlfriend Lulu. Robbie, unable to sustain a job, or much in the way of coherent thought really, is still functioning - just - and Lulu is well-meaning but lacks any real skills to help them. Lulu's attempt to get a job lands her in the hands of amoral 40-something shopping channel producer Brian, who has a sideline in violent porn and sends her out dealing ecstasy. Rule #1: don't trust a junkie: Robbie fucks up, the drugs disappear and Brian's hold over the trio becomes inescapable. Mark's attempt at professional therapy fails and he slithers into the arms of an unstable young rentboy with a father/son sadism complex... he wants a daddy/lover who'll hurt him, lovingly. Sex, sadism, manipulation, innocence corrupted, anal rape, puking, drug abuse and cynicism abound. Feeding (figuratively and literally) off each other, needy, inept and naive, they struggle to control their own little world. Each attempt they make to reach out to the wider world brings further pressure, increasing befuddlement. Shocking when it was first staged in 1996, with its depictions of aimlessness, addiction, sexual degradation, despair and predation, Shopping and Fucking is still a disturbing portrayal of what could happen to those i-teens who eventually emerge from their darkened bedrooms, away from their internet games and chatrooms and instantaneous gratification into the real world of emotions, real predators and commercial subtlety. On stage the scenario is even grimmer than I've managed to convey here, yet there is a vibrant perverse humour running throughout, moments of dark humour and sheer silliness. While we're disturbed by these flailing kids, and disgusted at times, we also fear for them. We feel for them, want them to escape their demons, to crawl out of their childlike turmoil and merge with adulthood and reality. Silo Theatre's Auckland production is dynamic, in your face and relentless. Better known as one of New Zealand's best and most versatile actors, director Stuart Devenie has created a production that assaults his audience without exhausting or alienating us. He has drawn exceptional portrayals and performances from his mostly young cast and shaped an evening that mimics the emotional extremes and twitchiness of a drug trip. Shane Bosher skillfully balances cynical and neurotic Mark on the knife-edge of sanity, tilting between aching humanity and personal degradation. Emily O'Brien-Brown captures well the yearning emptiness and frustration of Lulu, her woman's insights blighted by her teenager's experiences. David van Horn will hopefully pick up just a little more verve as the production settles in, but his sense of Mark's mopey and tragic disconnection from reality is still real and affecting. Deliciously sleazy and creepy, John Brazier's Brian is the only adult, showing us the predator's ability to cloak depravity with suave normality. He made us feel unease and disgust, and I hope as the run beds in he starts to scare us as well. Because it's through Brian's distorted amoral philosophy that we understand the morality warning at the core of this play and the future these kids face. Ravenhill's script is long on verbal pyrotechnics and dramatic fireworks but frequently short on character depth. While all the actors overcome this deficiency, the standout creation is Charlie McDermott's less than bright, emotionally volcanic Robbie. Any person who's ever known a frustrated well-meaning kid careening inescapably downhill from screw-ups to crises to Class-A conviction will see their worst fears made real in McDermott's fascinatingly intense performance. His episode in A  

Credit: Jay Bennie

First published: Thursday, 27th May 2004 - 12:00pm

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