CONFRONT THIS

by Ross Sharp

I’m unfamiliar with the theatrical works of writer-director Benedict Andrews*, but from all reports he appears to have quite the penchant for extremes of sexual and familial dysfunction, always a fine thing to fall back on in absence of a story.

His latest offering, “Every Breath” at Sydney’s Belvoir is getting a rather harsh thumping from a few critics.

It involves a family. A stranger. Sex scenes, nudity, m*sturbation.

I’ll book a ticket and a flight down and be right there, sounds like an invigorating night of stimulating theatre, a tonic for the soul, a workout for the brain, a rare insight into the human condition in its most unraveled state, an expl …

Oh, fuck off.

Enough of the never-ending fucked-up family into whose midst there comes a stranger or a relative who fucks them up further or unfucks them or winds up getting fucked, I get the picture, I get the soundtrack, I didn’t buy the book, and it’s getting a little tedious.

You know how this type of thing usually goes …

Mum’s a forty-five year old asthmatic pole-dancing stripper whose last gig was a men’s only night at a Gold Coast bowls club owned by a dodgy, dark-hued midget with a couple of ever-present steroid-pumped bodyguards, Dad’s gone off on one of his alcohol and cocaine fuelled gambling binges again with a one-legged prostitute, the nineteen year old son has a wound fetish and likes m*sturbating in funeral homes, and the eight year old daughter provides sexual favours to random classmates in return for bags of sugar-coated peanuts and rare Barbie outfits.

Into their circle wanders a long-lost family member, relative, acquaintance, whatever, and everybody talks a lot and fucks about and they talk some more and fuck about and talk and fuck about and then it ends.

I’d see the above if it were a comedy or a Todd Solondz film.

But all too often, it’s taken so very seriously, and it’s expected that the audience take it to heart as well, and, when it’s over, the audience will have had something revealed to them about their own thoughts and behaviour, something they previously did not know, but now they do …

“We should’ve stayed home and watched “Breaking Bad” instead. Thirty-seven bucks for season four**, and no parking fees.”

“Tell me a story” is not quite the same as “Watch me fuck”. Watching people fuck is not a story. Watching people fuck is when the story stops.

And if all you’ve got is people fucking, or being fucked, or talking about fucking, whether it’s fucking in the past, present or future tenses, what you wind up with will most likely resemble an overlong Penthouse letter of a Freudian flavour for pretentious twats.

Whether it’s theatre, film or books, the tedious wallow in sexual and familial dysfunction as entertainment of a so-called “confronting” nature when that’s all there is bores the shit out of me, not simply because of the nature of the content, but because the content is so thin, so threadbare …

“That’s all you’ve got? That’s it? That’s not a story. That’s just people fucking and talking about fucking. There’s no drama in that.”

If the drama of a tale arises from the protagonist wanting a thing, and taking action to overcome those obstacles placed in their way which are preventing them from getting it, making the thing they want a root, or to talk about rooting does not inspire me to stick around to see what happens next.

What happens next is either “fuck” or “fuck-all”.

Someone gets a towel.

Someone puts their clothes back on.

That’s not a story.

 

*For the record, this is not meant to be taken as criticism of Andrews’ play, as I’ve not seen it. I’m simply using it and the criticisms of it as a starting point for a long-held bugbear of mine.

**If you’ve not yet seen season four, buy it now. It will blow your mind. Here is one of the most memorable scenes from a later episode and one of the best fights I’ve ever witnessed on film …

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