Review: D*ck Pics in the Garden of Eden, written and directed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler, The Last Great Hunt.
We see this played out in the media: famous men, a dick pic unwisely texted, reputations and careers destroyed. But what if the man is Adam and his dick pic is not to Eve but to former lover Lilith?
D*ck Pics in the Garden of Eden, written and directed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler from The Last Great Hunt, is a comedic take on the lives of Adam and Eve following their infamous exile. It explores the connection between sex, shame, body image, gender inequality – and men’s fixation with their penises.
The play opens in an Eden which is not lush paradise, but a bare stage. Billowy white curtains span the upstage area. The floor, covered in what looks like grey synthetic carpet, suggests a retail showroom. The only greenery is a panel covered with fake ferns hanging sadly in the space and an artificial indoor plant (the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil). The soundscape is muzak meets electronica.
Enter Adam (David Vikman) and Eve (Arielle Gray) in body stockings and outlandish head pieces (a vulva-like creation for Eve and phallic cone for Adam). Actors costumed as exotic animals, including a Sponge Bob/mattress hybrid, complete this diorama.
It all looks like something you might pull together last minute for a kid’s dress up party, an aesthetic which is Play School meets school play. This is the perfect set up: the innocence before their exile to the suburbs where life is soap opera on steroids.
Playful yet uncanny
Several years post-exile, adult Adam (Ben Sutton) manages a sports goods store but risks losing this job if the dick pic he sent Lilith (Gray) gets out. He is on a retrieval mission.
Eve (Jo Morris) grows award-winning roses and is desperate to win again this year. Will the dick pic dash her chances?
Their adult daughter, Lulu (Joanna Tu), is auditioning for a play directed by Lilith (Iya Ware). Lulu had agreed to nudity but is now not so sure.
Their son Cain (Tyrone Robinson) is a gay porn actor living with Lucifer (Vikman). They are into threesomes, but Lucifer is finding it hard to keep up (literally).
Added to the mix is Dick Dickson (Chris Isaacs), a former relief teacher at Cain’s school now trying his hand at stand up: a career his name destined him for but which he can’t live up to. He hooks up with Lilith for some liberating S&M and then turns for Cain.The Last Great Hunt
Fowler’s directorial vision is clever. Filmed live close ups of the actors on stage are projected onto the upstage curtains. Two cameras on tripods are positioned stage left and right, and actors unobtrusively take turns to film closeups of facial expressions and on occasion, fake dicks.
These two-camera close ups, a staple of soap opera, reinforced the genre and the play’s focus on the performativity of sexual and gender identity.
Rhiannon Petersen’s lighting and Connor Brown’s sound design are well integrated with Rachel Claudio’s soundscape composition and Maeli Cherel’s set and costumes.
Together they create a playful yet uncanny Eden and allow for a smooth transformation to the suburban wasteland.
Cherel’s cartoonish costumes are particularly effective. They satirise how we sculpt, inject, train, exfoliate, hide and deny our bodies to aspire to socially constructed ideals of masculine and feminine.The Last Great Hunt
Body stockings are stuffed to form six packs, bulging muscles and big butts. Eve flaunts Madonna-style cone breasts and a delicate rose-shaped pudenda while Lilith is proud of her bush (a mess of black wool). The men are preoccupied with their penises.
The lewd, ludicrous fabric penises attached to their body stockings for all to see are admired, stroked, strutted, envied, filmed, photographed. They are a source of the men’s pleasure and their security blankets. They demand attention and assert power.
That is, until the women decide they don’t.
Bold and funny
The cast play multiple characters, make lightning quick costume changes, act for and operate cameras while remaining grounded and present. As an audience we trust them to take us on the journey and we enjoy the ride.
The play falls down a bit around its episodic structure. Segmented into chapters, it needed stronger hooks between the parts to drive the narrative and sustain energy.The Last Great Hunt
D*ck Pics in the Garden of Eden is bold and funny, canvassing how societal attitudes toward sex, shame, consent, body image, gender identities, sexuality and gender inequality have been informed.
There is a lot to digest here and at times the play seemed weighed down in the attempt to get its messages across. In the program notes, Fowler says: “What I like about theatre, is that it doesn’t have to spoon feed you”.
What this play calls for is less spoon feeding.
D*ck Pics in the Garden of Eden plays at the Subiaco Arts Centre, Perth, until December 3.
Authors: Helen Trenos, Lecturer (Theatre & Creative Arts), Curtin University