Review: Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography

Joseph Harper on the empty emotional pornography of Eight Gigabytes

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Written by Australia’s Declan Greene and directed by Laurel Devenie, Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography has the most ‘Silo Theatre’ title I’ve ever heard. It’s unfortunate that the production never gets as risque or dirty as the provocative title promises, and even when it does, I’m left wondering: to what purpose? The title intends to titillate, and all in all, the production does just that: little more than tease the surface of the issues it concerns itself with. 

The play is a kind of investigation into modern ennui through two desperate, lonely forty-somethings. Both are struggling with the predicaments they’ve dug themselves into. He’s unhappy in his marriage and bored with his lot in life, obsessed with his late-night sessions of x-rated escapism. She’s deep in a shopping addiction with letters, messages, and emails from creditors piling up and debtors banging on the door. They meet through some kind of online dating service and after a terrifically awkward initial introduction, the pair become linked and dissolve into a terrible, co-dependant relationship of sorts. For the most part the story plays out through a series of confessional monologues, though our narrators feel pretty unreliable and often they’re lying to us, to themselves, or to both.

It’s fairly miserable, but there’s plenty of humour from the existential gallows to keep you entertained throughout. Paul McLaney’s sound design feels a bit anachronistic with its landline ringtones. Jane Hakaraia's nice, sad lighting states do their darndest to humanise the characters we’re presented with, painting them as tiny and scared in front of Daniel Williams’ set of imposing, frosty screens. And both actors do a good job here, Bromwyn Bradley whose Woman is wriggling and cracking under that well-worn smile is especially compelling. You can see her shaking under the shell her character has made for herself. Mark Wright as the Man is brash, self-deprecating, and brazenly deluded. Their characters are wretches. She’s a shopaholic, he’s into porn and narcissism. They’re almost entirely lacking in redeeming qualities. They’re both so hopeless and shitty that it’s a wonder we’re willing to watch them for the duration of the show.

During some of the more truth-laden moments, Devenie and her actors have given the characters a clownish quality which I guess acts as a spoonful of sugar for the potentially troubling admissions the pair make throughout. But really it renders a lot of the confessions meaningless. The characters speak their truth, but it all seems so glib when the characters are playing them for laughs.

It isn’t helped by the fact that the ‘brutally honest revelations’ feel stale. The man has eight gigabytes of hardcore pornography. Fine. Who cares? A lot of it feels ‘in-yer-face’ a decade and a half after the fact. Simply presenting characters as flawed doesn’t carry water any more. Our Man’s life is horrible apparently, but why? What’s really beneath his desperate compulsion to indulge his pornographic impulses?

The man has eight gigabytes of hardcore pornography. Fine. Who cares?

We’ve seen this angst before, sure, but more frustrating is that without further examination, the play never feels like it’s delving into any of it. It’s just an hour of letting off steam. What we get is a 'Modern life is Rubbish' sentiment without any of the irony. 

The end result is a show that feels pornographic, arousing a kind of easy misanthropy that’s more muck-wallowing that deep-diving into any particular aspect of ‘middle-aged disillusionment’. These characters are so deeply obsessed with their own neuroses and inner-working that there’s no room anywhere for audience members to cling to, and ultimately it’s hard to give a shit about the play at all - especially with the very real, slightly cloying drama that’s played out on our seats before the show’s even started. Part of the issue with the playwright’s note on our seats before the show is that it adds to how facile his play feels. ‘Baring all’ is viewed as an ends rather than a means. That’s pornography.

Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography plays at
Q Theatre until 11 July 
Tickets available here

See also:
Nathan Joe for The Lumiere Reader
Matt Baker for Theatre Scenes
James Wenley for Metro