We enter stage to a flash of porn images, a seductive voiceover beckoning ‘come all over my face’, and ‘dominate me’. As the lights go up, we encounter two individuals whose lives inextricably collide due to their pornography addiction. Bucking stereotypes, Jules and Luka are intelligent, high functioning careerists living an otherwise beige life – systematically risking everything to indulge in porn. They’re caught in the grip of a compulsion thats very existence is doubted.
Two individuals whose lives inextricably collide due to their pornography addiction.
Luka and Jules decide to go ‘cold turkey’ in an attempt to connect and embark on a sexual relationship together. She consults the services of a therapist, and he seeks pastoral support within his church. Jules additionally joins an online forum for other people with the same issue. The advice they’re given from each is very different – the therapist seeking to infiltrate Luka’s psyche to direct her to a place of self understanding; with Jules receiving condemnation from his church. Ultimately however, life takes its toll and temptation lingers, lurking like a monster lying in wait.
The concept behind this piece is refreshingly innovative. It’s only recently that neuroscience has taught us that early or continued exposure to pornography can result in a failure to not only make emotional connections, but also physiologically alters the body’s ability to orgasm. This cleverly written piece by Oli Forsyth, for Smoke & Oakum Theatre, addresses this beautifully. Through the medium of Jules and Luka, their stormy union serves as the mechanism for an exploration of what happens when we strip back our feelings so far that it seems impossible to reconnect with them. Jules and Luka experience a plethora of emotions on their quest to connect on a human level. Jules rationalising that he has a relationship with the webcammers he regularly visits, and Luka’s justification that a much needed stress release is better served by watching ‘dungeon gang bangs on the office computer’ than actually working through what’s at the root of her need to over-achieve.
The premise of the show is intriguing, and overall it’s slightly stronger than the sum of its parts. Forsyth’s writing elevates what can be at times lacklustre acting. Olivier Huband excels as Jules, and Alice McCarthy has moments of brilliance as Luka. There’s at times a lack of credibility in the acting of some of scenes, in particular the interplay between the two characters subsequent to Luka’s return from San Francisco. However when it’s good, it’s excellent and one leaves with more questions than going in with - which is a sure sign that the piece has achieved its purpose.