Malthouse and St Martin’s Theatre Present GONZO

Porn, perspective and personal opinions as teens talk

By Margaret Wieringa

Teenagers and porn. Everyone is worried. Back in the day, porn was hard to find and rarely discussed. Now there is the Internet, and it’s free and, especially with smartphones and the like, very easily accessible. One big worry is that it is going to cause teenage boys to develop addictions and skewed ideas of what is expected in real relationships. Experts, politicians, teachers and parents all weigh in whenever the subject is raised, but, as director Clare Watson points out in her program note, there is a voice missing, and that is of the voice of teenage boys.

GONZO Jack Palit, Sol Rumble, Sam Salem &Ari Maza Long - photo credit Sarah Walker.jpg

Watson took the results of a survey of teenage males across Melbourne and worked with a group of boys from St Martin’s Theatre Company to develop this piece. What has resulted is an experience that is almost like eavesdropping for the audience. The four main performers – Ari Long, Jack Palit, Sam Salem and Sol Rumble – sit on stage and have what comes across as a relatively casual chat. The only real indication that is isn’t a normal conversation (apart from the odd stumbled line) is the visual design work by Michael Carmody appearing on the screen behind them. Initially, there is footage of bouncing breasts – an image seemingly unrelated to the chatter onstage, but adding to the wider commentary. Later, there are short sections breaking up the dialogue where the actors name porn clips, or tell brief anecdotes, and these are accompanied by a variety of significant animations of words or images.

The performers aren’t obviously playing characters – they use their own names, wear casual street clothes and spend as much time on their phones as they are talking. But it is important for the audience to remember that this is scripted, and that the opinions being expressed are not necessarily those of the actors, but an amalgam of the responses to the survey.

Toward the end of the performance, the boys are joined by Gala Vanting who is listed in the program as being a sex worker, educator and activist. I felt like the actors had, by this stage, established a nice rapport and Vanting’s entrance felt a bit forced – like the teenagers now had someone else that they had to relate to. It was interesting to hear what she had to say and the way the others responded to her, but this section felt less successful to me

Overall, I think that this is a very timely piece that is a glimpse into the world of teenagers. I hope that there is a way that the production is able to be given life beyond this season so that it can inspire conversations in schools and homes – but in the meantime, it’s playing at the Malthouse Theatre until October 1.

Gonzo plays at the Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt St, Southbank

September 22 to October 1. The shows are Tuesday to Saturday at 7pm with a 3:30 matinee on Saturday October 1.

Book tickets at www.malthousetheatre.com.au or call 9685 5111

Tickets are $35 – $65

Image by Sarah Walker

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