Smoke & Oakum’s depiction of porn addiction is an interesting watch, but stays slightly too cold to inspire an empathetic reaction. Maggie Kelly reviews Such Filthy F*cks:

Such Filthy F*cks is stylish.

Erin Green’s minimalist set is blinding white, Oli Forsyth’s writing meticulous and clear, Ben White’s sound design precise and layered. The entire piece is constructed of sharp, clean lines and right angles – nothing out of place, everything slotting together cleanly and smoothly.

And while this might seem like an odd choice for a play that has an erotic banana dripping with ice cream as the central image, the clinical atmosphere immediately shatters many preconceptions associated with porn addiction. This is not about the sweat, the orgasm, furious masturbation or squirting. This is cold, dry and distant.

Alice McCarthy & Olivier Huband (image courtesy of Alex Brenner)

Luka (Alice McCarthy) is a high-flying lab manager at a clinical trials company. She watches porn in order to deal with the constant drive of her intensely stressful job, her relief coming in the form of masturbating in the toilets for up to two hours a day. Jules (Olivier Huband) is a schoolteacher at the beck and call of a cam-couple who snapchat him whenever they go online, live-streaming themselves having sex. He has a compulsion to watch wherever he might be at the time – at home, on public transport, while working with the kids at school. Both find very little attraction in the actual feel and smell of real bodies, their sexual impulses trapped behind a digital screen.

Such Filthy Fcks Pleasance Dome
Alice McCarthy & Olivier Huband (image courtesy of Alex Brenner)

McCarthy and Huband’s precision of movement and intention is astounding. But while Such Filthy F*cks remains a compelling and nuanced study of porn addiction, it becomes more and more tricky to empathise with the characters onstage. Luka especially comes across as simultaneously defensive and aggressive, bitter and manipulative, putting other people down to make herself feel better. It’s hard to make a similar list of her positive qualities.

While some of the flaws can be considered hallmarks of addiction, it makes Such Filthy F*cks a very strenuous watch. It’s tough to root for characters and invest in their recovery when they never display any facets of warmth.

Such Filthy Fcks Pleasance Dome
Alice McCarthy (image courtesy of Alex Brenner)

The discussion of Such Filthy F*cks porn addiction itself is thorough, well-researched and expressed with the skillful ease that characterizes Forsyth’s work. Scientific, almost. Clinical like the set, like the job Luka adores.

It just doesn’t stir up anything human.

★★★☆☆

Such Filthy F*cks is now playing at Pleasance Dome until 25 August 2019. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the festival website.