Drunks jostled for the best plastic foldout seats – those with the plush Woodside cushions – as The Stables theatre slowly filled with the audience for ‘Talk Dirty to Me’. There’s hushed whispers and unsubtle pointing at the cast (already onstage), which fills the venue with a nervous fervour, as they are confronted with something slightly out of the ordinary. The play starts with a cacophony of message tones as the cast begins frantically texting on stage. Well, more like sexting.
This play traces the relationship between two people: Ash and Sam, as they look for love and connection through their online relationship. They have sex (online) and ‘just chat’ – exposing their vulnerabilities in both ways. They’re young and it’s all a bit crass – the kind of language they use will make you laugh if you’re over 30, and be totally relatable if you’re not. Problematically, while Ash is desperate to see Sam, she simply doesn’t want to meet him, instead using their sexual relationship to divert attention away from anything deeper.
There are two other unnamed characters in the play; one who interacts with the audience during breaks in the dialogue between Ash and Sam, and one who remains silent throughout the play’s entirety. The first shares facts about social media and has a little bit of a twist towards the end, but it’s the other that really gives this play depth. He dances and twists with the two protagonists, illustrating their feelings and relationship with the tech between them.
While the subject matter runs the risk of being very technophobic and cliché, it instead has a beautifully constructed plot and gives great insight into human vulnerability in a modern context. The inclusion of the unspeaking characters breaks up the ‘love story’ and makes the play seem more analytical in nature. This is a really gorgeous play, and another great triumph, both from the two Canberra theatre-makers who createdit, and from the company that performed it – The Cutting Room Floor. Check it out if you’re looking for something to make you laugh, and make you think!
Words by Caz Stafford