Charlie Falkner wants to talk about sex. Specifically, the kind of sex tech-savvy, self-obsessed Millennials are having (or not having). His latest play, Sex Object, produced by JackRabbit Theatre Company and showing at The Depot Theatre, is a fast-paced, uber-real, laugh-a-minute look at what makes people tick in the modern age. And it is furiously good fun.
Like Falkner’s earlier play, Dirty People, Sex Object is thoroughly character driven. Playing out over the course of an evening, we are introduced to four archetypes of the new Millennia: Ben, the fumbling every-man with an all-too familiar screen addiction; Ron, his frustrated, identity-fluid girlfriend who frets about energies and chakras; Gustav, Ron’s larger-than-life brother, a self-obsessed ‘free spirit’ craving fame; and Kate, Gustav’s ‘beautiful enough to be a model’ fiancé, who is all style and no substance.
Set against the backdrop of Ron and Gustav’s late father’s home, a homage to the patriarch’s sexually explicit artistic endeavours, the characters lurch towards some as yet unknown climax. They dance around the subject that has brought them all together, though it lingers, ever-present on the walls around them. Mostly, though, they bring out the worst in each other – to hilarious effect.
Falkner’s writing channels Kevin Smith (of Clerks and Mallrats fame) – his dialogue moves at lightning speed, borrowing from the best (and worst) of today’s youth, while still putting in his characters’ mouths the ability to eloquently critique themselves and their world. It is at times didactic but always with tongue firmly in cheek. Most importantly, it is damn funny!
In addition to penning the script, Falkner takes to the stage in the role of Ben, a Millennial in the throes of a deep identity crisis. His performance is suitably fidgety and seems to come very naturally. Perhaps a little too naturally in the opening minutes as he could have used a little more volume to command more theatrical attention (and reach the audience seated in the back row).
Playing opposite Falkner as his girlfriend, Ron, is Charlotte Devenport. She, too, is a practised comedian and handles the pacey dialogue with ease. She is also terribly convincing as a new-age artist, complete with bare feet, flowing locks and floaty hand gestures.
As Kate, Grace Victoria is a bit of a conundrum. The nature of the role means it takes a little while for her character to become clear, but she plays the vapid, ‘beautiful blonde’ perfectly.
The standout performer – in part because the role calls for more theatricality than the other three characters put together – is Andrew Hearle. His portrayal of Gustav, Ron’s eccentric, flamboyant brother, is hysterical and full-bodied. He gives 100% commitment to the ridiculousness of the role, with a genuine charisma that makes the character seem realistic in spite of the obvious melodrama.
Together, the cast play-off each other brilliantly – a tribute to director, Michael Abercromby, who has not only cast his actors extremely well but also displays an expert understanding of the inner-workings of the characters. This is the second collaboration between Falkner and Abercromby (they worked together on 2016’s Dirty People) and it is clearly a partnership that brings out the best in both of them.
Abercromby’s set design, supported by lighting by Louise Mason, is simple but effective, making full use of the Depot Theatre’s unique properties. By utilising non-literal forms (artworks hanging on invisible walls, a simple black frame acting as doorway) the set cleverly reflects the world of the artiste. The artwork itself, designed by Shaynee Brayshaw, does much to set the tone, although if you’re easily offended you may find the subjects a bit confronting. And in a not so subtle nod to the play’s themes, the scene changes occur under a seedy red glow.
All these elements combine to make Sex Object a deeply pleasurable experience. Yes, the story takes a little while to get going. You may find yourself wondering just where it is all headed. My advice is to simply relax and revel in the comedy – you’ll get your happy ending!
Sex Object is playing at The Depot Theatre, Marrickville until 29th April. For tickets, go here.
The reviewer attended opening night, Thursday 20th April.
Photo credit Omnes Photography