Porn – the Musical

Theatre 503, 10 April – 1 May 2010

Reviewed for the British Theatre Guide

It’s fair to assume that few people watch porn for the plot, and it’s best to take the same approach to Porn – the Musical. Erase the phrase “But what about…” from your vocabulary and you’ll find a pretty entertaining hour of musical theatre scattered through the two-hour running time.

The book acknowledges and embraces the leaps of logic and sketchy characterisation typically associated with porn and bad musicals alike. The whole production is suffused with a sense of fun, distilled in a couple of life-affirmingly glorious puns and some knowingly silly choreography (covering naïve Stefan’s (Brendan Cull) modesty with convenient towels and beach balls in ‘Naked on a Sunday’); and the whole cast commit to their roles with devil-may-care abandon.

The lyrics are often stretched a bit to fit the meter or rhyme, and there are too few energetic numbers in the second act, but there are one or two gems – chiefly those featuring hung-but-dumb porn stud Dr Johnny Long, PHD (Alain Terzoli). Johnny’s poppy introductory number is the highlight of the first act, and his entrance peps up an otherwise forgettable first act closer.

Unfortunately the fun stuff is heavily watered down with awkward metatheatrical asides.

First there’s a totally extraneous narrator (Malcolm Galea, one of the writers) who turns up with irksome regularity to recap things we saw two minutes ago, and to summarise thoughts and feelings we really should be discovering through the performances.

Then, throughout, the cast drop out of character to explain scenic devices to one another, a tendency embodied by the Miscellaneous Man (Ahmet Ahmet). He plays all the minor roles, and the other performers keep confusing whom he’s playing when, a joke that relies on jolting the audience out of their engrossment in the show. He even gets a number about how the rest of the company don’t appreciate him.

That’s not even the only purposeless number; the second act starts with the cast berating latecomers through song, and the show ends with a full-cast ballad devoted solely to informing the audience that the show’s over and they can go home.

The problem in a nutshell seems to be that the writers wanted to write about musical theatre – to poke gentle, self-effacing fun at its archetypes, tropes and clichés – but somehow accidentally wrote a musical about porn instead.

Written by Boris Cezek, Malcom Galea, Abigail Guan and Kris Spiteri

Crew includes Paul Robinson (director), Ally Holmes (choreographer/assistant director) and Rachael Canning (designer)

Cast includes Ahmet Ahmet (Miscellaneous Man), David Burt (Marvin), Brendan Cull (Stefan), Malcolm Galea (Narrator), Jody Peach (Jade), Alain Terzoli (Dr Johnny) and Sophia Thierens (Sanddy)

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