BWW Review: SEX/CRIME, Soho Theatre
A and B meet to recreate the feats of a famously homosexual serial killer who's haunting the streets of London. A, who's providing the service for a price, creates the scenarios of choice while B gets off on the pain and shame that comes from it. After a successfully sold-out run at The Glory, Alexis Gregory has taken Sex/Crime to Soho Theatre leaving one to wonder if audiences at the East End venue co-owned by Gregory's co-star Jonny Woo were seeing the same piece.
Directed by Robert Chevara, it's a fascinating exploration of the link between arousal and violence, humiliation and affection, murder and passion - in theory, that is. While the direction and script are fairly dynamic (although the latter has a tendency to stumble rather cheaply here and there) the quite subpar acting can be infuriatingly distracting from what could be a compelling narrative, missing the mark by a mile.
The fact that there seems to be little to no chemistry between the two also turns into a problem when the story is so sexually charged. While Woo exudes power, charisma, and know-how as A, Gregory appears as a mere camp figurine whose over-the-top delivery impacts both Woo's potential and the whole reception of the performance, which is unfortunate.
Sex/Crime attempts to become a very specific hot fever dream where sexual deviance is embraced in a study of queerness and love. Chevara manages to cherish its glimpses of brilliancy originating from Gregory's script and the show is visually sound with Mike Robertson's lighting up Rocco Venna's set.
A's beatings slow down with clever direction and lights, while blackouts emphasise brutality. Another moment that needs to be commended sees A appealing to EU regulations in order to take a break in the midst of a torture scenario, but all these scattered instances don't manage to save a play that suffers acting-wise.
B's excitable-puppy attitude doesn't evolve as the script requires and there's not much substantial character development. Gregory's text says that these changes happen, but their staging falls flat. Thematically, the baits that he sets are exceptionally enticing but probed very little below the surface.
It's clear what the aim of the project is but what they were trying to do is just beyond their reach. Regrettably, as it is Sex/Crime is only the shadow of what it could be. Their comedic timing is off and the landing is generally too shrill and shallow to be an accomplished queer black comedy.
Image courtesy of Matt Spike