Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Jan 12 – 16, 2022
Playwright: David Finnigan
Director: Sheridan Harbridge
Cast: Priscilla Doueihy, Matt Hardie, Emma Harvie, Rebecca Massey, Keith Robinson
Celina is not making rent, and Australian workplace relations law is allowing her boss to hire her only on a contractual basis. To ensure the clickbaity publisher gives her more work, Celina decides to write a review of a social influencer’s controversial new book 44 Sex Acts In One Week, after trying out all of the book’s recommendations. David Finnigan’s play of the same name however, is not about sex work, even though that is ostensibly what we witness Celina to be engaging in, for the entire duration. Neither is it about the nature of human sexuality in the twenty-first century. The play’s actual concern, is the blind eye we turn, away from ecological disasters that are ongoing in real life.
That link between our frivolous obsessions and life’s real problems, are not always made explicit in Finnigan’s play. He makes us indulge instead, in a plethora of silly sex jokes (ranging from the painfully juvenile to the surprisingly clever), as an allegorical strategy perhaps, to illustrate the point of our wilful ignorance. One has to be grateful that the conservation message is never dealt with in a heavy handed manner, but its dizzying style of humour, is unlikely to be widely appealing.
Sheridan Harbridge’s direction is gaudy and boisterous, with a sense of exhilaration that is perfectly suited to the themes of 44 Sex Acts In One Week. The raucous atmosphere is greatly enhanced by Trent Suidgeest’s colourful lights and glitzy set design. Elements of the show utilise foley techniques, as though for a radio play; Steve Tolumin’s sound design contributes substantially to the madcap quality of the presentation. Sound engineering though, is somewhat a problem for the production, with dialogue occasionally lost in the vast auditorium.
The eminently charismatic Emma Harvie is perfectly cast as Celina, with an air of naivety that prevents any sexual content from turning overwrought. Her comedic timing is in a word exquisite, and her ability to appear completely impulsive and present, is a real gift. Rebecca Massey plays two roles, both privileged and irresponsible women, who get lampooned exuberantly through Massey’s vivacious approach.
Priscilla Doueihy too performs double duty, but it is in the huge contrast between both characters, that she delivers the biggest laughs. Celina’s sex partner Alab is depicted by an alluring Matt Hardie, who brings appropriate playfulness to the experience. Finally, Keith Robinson is the narrator, reliably dignified as he takes us through each mischievous scene.
Evidence shows that we care little for the environment, and that human extinction is likely to be, just a matter of time. It is not an exaggeration to say that we are, by and large, a destructive species, yet what is distinctive about our behaviour, is that we seem determined to act as though life is eternal. Even during a pandemic, we go to bed assured that tomorrow will come. Nothing seems to be able to put a damper on our certainty that life will go on, and so we keep doing what we do, thinking only of ourselves, when there is no denying that so much of what we do, is akin to mass suicide.