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Pornography by Simon Stephens at Steep theatre

By Simon Stephen

Directed by Robin Witt

At Steep Theatre, Chicago

This Pornography not about graphic sex

“Are you laughing or are you crying?”

British playwright, Simon Stephen’s (Harper Regan) Pornography is a sort of slice of life – in London – not an explicit sex show. Set in London on or about July 7, 2005 – the day four home grown Muslin terrorists exploded suicide bombs killing 52 people and injuring over 700 in the British pubic transit system.  Stephen’s drama weaves the story of six Londoners each with strong feelings of being objectified and dissociated from society. With an amazing lack of empathy and compassion, these folks demonstrate their disconnect from current events.

Pornography by Simon Stephen

London is bristling with activity: the G8 conference, a Live 8 rock concert and the celebration of London being awarded the 2012 Olympic Games but our subjects live isolated from such happens.

Pornography by Simon Stephen

We meet a married woman played by Kendra Thulin –  uses her monologue to describe and explain how her nasty boss motivated her to commit industrial espionage. Next, Rudy Galvan’s monologue depicts a school boy who is both bullied by his mates and has a crush on one of his teachers.  We then meet a couple – Walter Briggs and Caroline Neff who, at first appear to be a loving couple – but in reality they are brother and sister. That doesn’t slow down their love making and sexual intrigue.

Next, we meet a student – Michael Salinas who meets his former teacher – Peter Moore. The student is in search of employment and, knowing that the teacher had a ‘thing’ for him, makes contact with surprising results.  We meet a young man carrying a large backpack who is determined to get to London to meet his associates during the height of the morning commuter rush. We hear his alienation and contempt for British society  as well as his meticulous attention to detail. Last, we hear a funny yet cynical monologue from Maggie Cain who has already shutout the world in her old age. The smell of barbeque chicken  overwhelms her and Blake McKay gives her a sample to eat.

Pornography is a tad tedious as several of the monologues were too long and too detailed but once you stay tuned in, the play works. The video screens were at first helpful but later became a useless distraction. Some may feel that Pornography is “too British” for American audiences. Perhaps,  yet the performers – all sporting richly authentic English accents (credit dialogue coach Anita Deely)  exemplified  enough humanity to empathetic. Each dramatized their empty lives and their detachment from society. No wonder they can be so cold to alien cultures. I particularly was impressed with Rudy Galvan, Maggie Cain and John Taflan.  Simon Stephens is a British playwright worth our attention.


Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: July 28, 2011

For more info on Pornography page on

At Steep Theatre, 1115 W. Berwyn, Chicago, IL,, tickets $20 -$22, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, Running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through September 3, 2011


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