Sex with Strangers

This is not a call to action, since possibly a good proportion of you are married or attached, but rather an account of a brilliant play I saw last night that explores themes that bloggers and writers will find intriguing. It was Ryan Corr and Jacqueline Mackenzie onstage having the ‘sex’. The play we saw last night at the Sydney Theatre Company reminded me of all the things that make live performance intense and raw and wonderful, and so different to reading a book or watching a movie.

The play explores the digital age through the intergenerational relationship that develops between the main characters of Olivia and Ethan. Olivia is an old-school writer and book lover in her late 30s, enamoured with the literary greats and focused on the tactile appeal and smell of books. She’s offline and fond of the writerly process, hiding out in writers’ retreats and terrified of criticism. Ethan, breezing in one night, is the 20-something charismatic writer of the digital age, who’s had a blockbuster bestseller based on his blog, itself based on his stories of arseholery and one-night stands. He’s so connected he’s taken for dead after two days of no shows on Twitter.

It explored the ideas that literary writing is good but doesn’t sell just on merit, versus popular writing and the question of whether its authors have any more ‘in’ them, the importance of selling and popularity and the evolution of publishing in the age of e-books;   all relevant and topical subjects. What was riveting for me though, was watching the two actors BE onstage. Sitting in the front row, with my feet perched on the stage, there were moments of such intimacy in the facial expressions of the actors that I almost felt I needed to look away. Hell – I have trouble showing that much vulnerability in REAL LIFE, let alone on a stage, in my boxers, in front of a full theatre.

Yes – ‘in my boxers’ … I’m getting to that. So, there was very believable chemistry between the leads and they seemed very comfortable jumping on each other. Jacqueline Mackenzie was awesome, but more ‘actorly’ in her delivery I thought, and seemed somehow less vulnerable. Of course, she’s more experienced, and her character was also less ‘out there’ than Ryan’s who laid it all bare.

If you feel like you’ve just interrupted something, it’s cos you have.

I realised what an awesomely promising stage actor he is, with his beautiful diction and clear projection (compared to the lovable bogan he plays on Packed to the Rafters with the matching bogan accent). He did REAL TEARY EYES PEOPLE – proper fake crying – and that seduction face – woah. I felt I was hiding under somebody’s bed. Our seats meant that I could have reached out and poked him in the leg, so I sat on my hands for a little while.

Theatre is SO fun. It’s like watching really interesting people have a relationship, without worrying about them getting hurt (cos they’re not real), watching them pick up and strip off without feeling like a total pervert (cos you’re sitting next to your partner in a seat you paid for), then watching how they fight without worrying about having to choose sides. It’s people-watching at its finest, and in this case, played out in a microcosm of the writing and publishing worlds. Fun, fun, funnety fun for book nerds like me.

The best part of all? It was inspiring. It’s made me want to write like a maniac.

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