The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings








Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London London Review

All of a sudden, as if by magic, there are people everywhere. Turning away from train platforms. Suited and smart and elegant and crisp. Weary-eyed and bloated. Breakfasting on Mcdonald's or Breakfast Bars or Honey and Granola. Lugging their laptops. Clicking their heels. Pulling their shirt cuffs. Pressing their phones. — Four
Anthony Welsh
(Photo: Robert Day)
Simon Stephens' play Pornography is an enthralling collage of eight people caught on the summer's day in July 2005, the day after it has been announced that London has been chosen to host the Summer Olympics of 2012. Although each character gives an intimate and personal portrait of their lives and concerns, one of them will be changing the life of many because he is one of the Islamist extremists who has planned a campaign of bombing on the London Underground. Stephens' writing is descriptive and lyrical, somehow conveying a compilation of Englishness, a group portrait of the people of this country at a moment in time.

There is the young mother and teacher wrapped up in her baby (Frances Ashman), the brother and sister (Sam Spruell and Kirsty Bushell) who are as close as they can be and Billy Seymour as the unpleasant, obsessive schoolboy whose fantasy passion for his teacher Lisa turns to vindictiveness when he is inevitably rejected. Sheila Reid is delightful as the scatty older woman who is eccentric, quirky and outrageous. Sarah Solemani is the young unemployed graduate linking up with her university lecturer Sam Graham and exploring the past. Anthony Welsh is the young black man whose observation is poetic and beautiful. Early on in the play he causes a deep intake of breath as we realise the journey he is describing so intelligently with its bizarrely diversionary journey from Manchester to London means that he will rendezvous with the others at Kings Cross and photographed together by security cameras, this will be the last image of the 7/7 bombers alive. From this point we are drawn in to thinking that there will be bad endings for our characters but Simon Stephens doesn't opt for anything as easy or prosaic.

Sean Holmes directs on a set full of curly, electrical cables and hanging down vertical tube lighting to illustrate our connectivity and also to allude to the tunnel that the tube trains will travel down. There is that sense of thrill and achievement of the Olympic victory, everyone is talking about it, which of course is spoilt by the news of the bombings. Pornography opened in a German translation in Hanover in 2007 and went to the Traverse for the Edinburgh Festival last year but this is the first time Londoners have had the opportunity to see it.

The performances are involving from Billy Seymour's intense, priggish, blazer clad schoolboy to Sheila Grant's amusing old biddy. Kirsty Bushell has all the intensity of a sister on a sexual adventure with her brother, who is literally stripped naked by the encounter. Her concern when she thinks her brother has been caught up in the disaster is electric.

The title Pornography remains something of a mystery to me but from Webster's we have the secondary definition of, "the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction" and Stephens' play effectively channels the excitement of people discussing both the Olympic planning juxtaposed with the sensational but frightening news of those terrible simultaneous tube and bus bombings the very next day.

Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
Written by Simon Stephens
Directed by Sean Holmes

With: Frances Ashman, Kirsty Bushell, Sam Graham, Sheila Reid, Billy Seymour, Sarah Solemani, Sam Spruell, Anthony Welsh
Design: Paul Wills
Lighting: Chris Davey
Sound: Emma Laxton
A joint production between Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company and the Traverse Theatre Company
Running time: One hour forty minutes with no interval
Box Office: 020 7328 1000
Booking to 29th August 2009
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 6th August 2009 performance at the Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn High Road, London NW6 (Tube: Kilburn)

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Pornography
  • I disagree with the review of Pornography
  • The review made me eager to see Pornography
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email . . . also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

London Theatre Tickets
Lion King Tickets
Billy Elliot Tickets
Mighty Boosh Tickets
Mamma Mia Tickets
We Will Rock You Tickets
Theatre Tickets
London Theatre Walks

Peter Ackroyd's  History of London: The Biography

London Sketchbook

tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

©Copyright 2009, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from