David Myles directs Melbourne's premiere production of Pornography by acclaimed British playwright Simon Stephens, a play that thrillingly reveals the brutality of human nature during a time of crisis.
The play is set in London, July 2005, as the G8 Summit, Live 8 anti-poverty concert, Olympic Games announcement and fatal terrorist attacks all collide. This play was written in response to the incredulity felt by Londoners when they were informed that the 4 young suicide bombers were English – born and bred. Playwright Simon Stephens is renowned for his stylistic audaciousness – something that appeals to director Myles who says the the quality of the writing, the subject matter and the structure of the play is what attracted him to this work. " The writer has supplied no information other than the words – there are no character names, no settings, no stage directions and even states that the play can be performed in any order by any number of actors," says Myles. "The play must be interpreted which means that no two productions will ever be remotely similar."
The title of the play refers to the obscenities of contemporary life, voiced by eight characters who find themselves performing personal, criminal or sexual acts of transgression over the course of seven historic days and is presented as a series of disconnected monologues, wherein Stephens mirrors our increasing fragmentation as a people and as individuals. Myles' first task was to unravel the script and come up with a clear interpretation when that was accomplished, Myles felt he then had the psychological knowledge and confidence to take each actor into the dark and euphoric area of transgression so that their performance becomes truthful.
Simon Stephens has used this time of emotional turmoil to examine the pressures of living in a large city at a time when society is moving away from traditional community values. The volatile combination of political philosophies and rapidly advancing technology is producing a world where the word ‘society’ itself is being threatened. A direct result of the ease of electronic communication is that we know less about one another and therefore objectify and assess without any human understanding. Being recognized and understood is a basic human need and the more difficult this is to achieve, the more extreme our responses may become.
To accommodate Stephens' play, Myles has designed a performance arena which has a naturalistic core, but at the same time the space for imagination to enter. He is subsequently directing the performances to match this, as well as conceiving computer generated imagery and stage technique to support it. Myles brings to the production his extensive experience both nationally and internationally, having directed works for the National Theatre, Royal Dramatic Theatre of Sweden, BBC, ITV and Paramount Pictures. A career highlight, says Myles, was directing Laurence Olivier in The Merchant of Venice while Staff Director at the National Theatre. In Australia he has directed works for MTC, Malthouse Theatre, and Melbourne and Adelaide Festivals.
The significance of the play for Myles is clear: "Whilst not condoning acts of transgression I agree that if there is to be any hope of redemption, or indeed any hope for our future, we must look beyond the headlines and attempt to understand why transgressions occur," says Myles. "People are becoming more and more isolated as a result of general political ideology and the rapidly advancing technical revolution and as a result, when under stress, are prone to ‘breaking the rules’.
This is the premiere of the first English speaking Melbourne production and a coup for all involved. Pornography promise sot be shocking, emotional and funny. In fact, say Mules, the audience will be engaged in a performance which will be visually and emotionally moving. H promises that they will be both entertained and challenged. "The play is funny and shocking, touching and brutal, sensual and disturbing and whilst aiming at the heart of the pornography of everyday life, is absolutely not pornographic."
Pornography plays February 20 – March 3 at the Malthouse