Theatre: Fleshed out

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After the Orgy

Queen Elizabeth Hall

You feel a bit self-conscious waiting to go into an experimental "strictly adults only" show called , the publicity for which warns (or rather promises) that ideas and scenes may offend.

Mingling with the very large turnout at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, I tried valiantly to wipe any hint of a "What are you doing after ?" lear from my face.

I was also glad I had just had my mac cleaned.

A distinguished critic from another newspaper claimed to be there because he had seen Volcano Theatre Company's work at an Ibsen Festival in Norway. I ventured to suggest that he may have been less willing to give up his Sunday evening if the current show had been billed as an examination of the Church of England rather than as "a post-modern look at the plight of an era bloated by excess ... [with] a continuum of projected images, grinding porn and a blasting live thrash band".

One of the multiple disappointments arising from is its failure to make a properly revealing and embarrassing issue of that key question: what mixture of motives prompts people to attend? Using pornography might be defined as wresting sexual pleasure from a source you waive the responsibility of treating as a full human being like yourself. With photographs and films, this is an easier business than in a theatre where some kind of social interaction is part of the deal. But this multi-media event - which juxtaposes the live performers Juan Carrascoso and Gil Lyon with softish porn videos and with blown-up footage they take of one another on the spot using a hand-held camera - doesn't sensitise you to the moral meaning of this split-treatment of the audience.

Carrascoso and Lyon make their final bows in profile to the camera which means that we applaud (pretty weakly, it has to be said) their image on a giant screen. Since they have never been properly present, though, the point of the disconnection is lost. Oh yes, they've thrashed around and done cod routines as Tristan and Issolda and as the voyeuristic filmer and the filmed in the movie Peeping Tom and they've spouted pseudo-profound slogans.

But one of the irritating things about is the sense that the two of them are floating around in conceptual space - too clever, jokey and knowing to be on any real continuum with the issues they are fetchingly fleshing out.

The intellectual pretensions of the piece, though, are ghastly: this is a show for people who think that snitched soundbites from cribs like Baudrillard for Beginners constitutes thought. In orgiastic porno sex, we're told, the body is "hypnotised by its own performance", a "somnambulist celibate machine" aspiring to "endless, sinless, illusionless performance".

Which all sounds very metaphysical: you'd never guess that there's another machine in constant motion in this world - a hard, vicious economic one.

The answer to "What are you doing after ?" turns out to be very simple: you're feeling short-changed and pretty damned depressed.

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