Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Theatre

Agents provocateurs

5 February 2020

The swirling world of porn is the perfect subject for Andrew Sutherland and Charlotte Otton’s tongue-in-cheek 30 DAY FREE TRIAL, David Zampatti says.

Review: Charlotte Otton and Andrew Sutherland, 30 DAY FREE TRIAL ·
Blue Room Theatre, 4 February 2020 ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

This slick little ménage à deux is very likely to be the indie hit of Fringe World. Despite its lurid ostensible subject matter, it’s a cleverly positioned and craftily tongue-in-cheek piece of theatre (even if you aren’t always sure whose tongue and which cheeks they’re on about).

“They” are Charlotte Otton and Andrew Sutherland, right now the most prominent and lauded darlings/enfants terribles of Perth’s alternative theatre scene – by which, in these straitened times, we pretty much mean the Blue Room Theatre’s circle of writers, producers, directors and actors.

Otton’s Feminah was an award winner at fringes around the country last year, while Sutherland’s Poorly Drawn Shark won the prestigious Blaz award and ECU Performing Arts award at last year’s Fringe World.

Otton and Sutherland are no mugs: they’re provocative, fearless, sexy and talented, and the swarming, swirling world of porn is a ready-made subject for their collaboration. And why not? Something like 30 per cent of the bandwidth of the internet is taken up with it, it dominates music videos, comedy, fashion. The world’s most powerful country is, many would say, a pornocracy, and its tropes are everywhere. So it’s fair to say that porn is under-represented as a subject in the theatre.

Well, Sutherland and Otton aren’t going to take that lying down, and they come at it with all the tricks of their trade, from sharp humour to dazzlingly filthy doggerel and riffing variations on themes (“Before we start, let’s get to know a little bit about you, honey …”).

There’s serious intent behind the jokes and the posturing, though. As Sutherland says, porn is a simulacrum, an imitation of life, and, like a bird in a cage reciting poetry, there’s an emptiness and sadness there that he and Otton capture expertly.

Unlike the subject it deals with, 30 DAY FREE TRIAL is not shallow, nor is it particularly fun, though what it deals with purports to be so. It’s a simulacrum itself, an imitation of a faulty imitation of life. It’s an actor practising to be a near-child rehearsing the sounds of sex; it’s Otton in black lingerie standing alongside a cardboard cut-out of herself in lingerie that isn’t quite big enough.

“They got the size wrong,” she says. And that’s the point of this far from pointless show.

30 DAY FREE TRIAL runs until 8 February 2020 at the Blue Room.

Click here to read a Seesaw Q&A with Charlotte Otton and Andrew Sutherland.

Pictured top: Charlotte Otton and Andrew Sutherland check themselves out in ’30 DAY FREE TRIAL’.

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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