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Review: When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other, at Dorfman, National

Cate Blanchett stars in explicit and violent two-hour production - without any interval - that explores sex and the complexity of gender

31 January, 2019 — By Howard Loxton

Cate Blanchett in When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other. Photo: Stephen Cummiskey

SUBTITLED “12 Variations on Samuel Richardson’s Pamela” and described as a “provocation” inspired by that scandalous 1740 novel about the seduction of a teenage serving girl, Martin Crimp’s new play isn’t a direct adaptation but echoes its incidents in presenting a couple’s S&M roleplay.

In a breezeblock double garage a group dressed as maids, their mouths sealed with gaffer tape, watch a couple climb into an Audi. They bonk in the back seat, over the bonnet, and work through their variations with gender and role swapping, she sometimes in trousers, he in a blonde wig.

Male voyeur Ross (Craig Miller) gets beaten up and is then forced to manually pleasure the woman (by now in a wedding dress). Three servants become bridesmaids. Housekeeper Mrs Jewkes (Jessica Gunning) puts up with her master’s insults before getting involved making lesbian advances.

Both Cate Blanchett, as the Woman, and Stephen Dillane as the Man reveal lacy basques and suspenders under their other clothes as they act out a series of crude copulations including the Woman strapping on a dildo.

Kate Mitchell’s two-hour production, without any interval, is explicit and violent but far from erotic, and it’s relentless except for a brief hiatus when Mrs Jewkes sings a song before kissing the Woman.

What’s it about? The complexity of gender, where does the power really lie; does sex need a perverse edge to make it exciting; is sexual intercourse always play acting – all these perhaps, but not explored deeply?

It is indeed provocation, not answers. The play, like its action, seems a charade but its detail keeps you watching and the strong presence of the leading performers holds the attention.

UNTIL MARCH 2
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