BWW Review: 30 DAY FREE TRIAL at The Blue Room Theatre
Two independent theatre makers have come together to explore internet porn in all its weird glory in 30 Day Free Trial at The Blue Room Theatre as part of Summer Nights and FRINGE WORLD. Charlotte Otton and Andrew Sutherland have collaborated for the first time on a multimedia theatre work that delves into the performative nature of sex, using the medium of internet porn as an entry point into the discussion. It's intimate, funny, and thought-provoking, and of course, sexy.
As we enter the space, we are met with two cardboard cutouts of Otton and Sutherland dressed and posed for pleasure, and under the red lights designed by Phoebe Pilcher, you would swear you're looking at the real things. The live duo eventually entered the space barefoot and bathrobed in white, introducing themselves, and giving us a little insight into how they came to work together on the piece.
They get into the nitty-gritty, taking a look at a transcript of a real adult film audition by an 18(?)-year-old American woman and an off-camera porn maker. Otton does her best to recreate the audition for the audience, but has trouble making it sound authentic; "I'm going to drop the accent," she quips after a few false starts. They show video of themselves giving straight-to-camera thoughts on their own sex experiences, and intersperse this with live anecdotes as well.
They use a laptop on stage to look up videos and make good use of the webcam, which are then projected onto the stage left wall of the space; this keeps our attention pinging back and forth from the performers to the projections and sometimes to the aforementioned cutouts. The overall result is a kind of three-dimensional collage of ideas, thoughtfully pieced together by Otton and Sutherland.
30 Day Free Trial is an intelligent survey of the subject matter without clinging to any particular dominant theme or drawing any conclusions for us. Otton and Sutherland give you a lot of food for thought, and of course, there's a bit of titillation and shock value (Jurassic Park makes an unexpected and bizarre appearance); but the thing I found myself reflecting on the most after the show was the idea of intimacy and performance in different types of relationships - between lovers naturally, but also between audiences and performers, and especially between artistic collaborators.
I wondered how the intimacy between these two theatre makers, who have already carved distinct marks for themselves within the industry, had developed through making this work, and what kind of mark that would leave on their individual practices. To make a piece about the nature of sex and performance would have most assuredly necessitated an intimate, open space between them. Will it lead to further collaborations? Is this creative partnership something that will last beyond the whirlwind of Summer Nights? As with most things in life, time will tell.
They end the show sitting in the same chair, looking at the same laptop screen as the stage light dim - an apt metaphor for their collaboration.
The Summer Nights/FRINGE WORLD season of 30 Day Free Trial ran from 4 - 8 Feb at The Blue Room Theatre.