Theatre review: Sex Crime

Image Matt Spike

I don’t know about you, writes Cary Gee, but if I went home with a guy, only to find he kept his furniture wrapped in plastic, I’d run like the wind. But some men like it messy, and some like to be messed with. Sex Crime takes the darkest of sexual fantasies to the limit, and then some.

Perhaps to create emotional dissonance, this two-hander, slickly directed by Robert Chevara, dispenses with names. Instead Johnny Woo, plays “A”, who earns his living fulfilling the fantasies of men like “B”, (writer Alexis Gregory).

While the suited and booted Woo is all business, a martinet with impeccable timing and a whip-like tongue, Gregory flutters across the stage like a moth to a flame. And like a moth, he seems intent on immolation. His fantasy is to be murdered by “A” in a copycat re-enactment of a celebrated sex crime.

“Where do we start?” “B” asks his would be killer. “Admin,” deadpans Woo. Apparently there can be no killing until the client has agreed to terms and conditions, including health and safety. A seam of coal-black humour runs throughout this play, without which the subject matter would soon become intolerable.

What follows is a full-frontal dissection of bondage, domination and sado-metaphorical sex. Imagine booking a session with a sex therapist only to discover your therapist was Jack Torrence from The Shining!

If not for the two stand-out performances of Woo and Gregory the unpalatability of Sex Crime, performed in your face in Soho Theatre’s small studio space, could very easily prove anathema to an audience inured to watching dramatisations of internalised homophobia, but as Woo and Gregory circle each other like two phosphorescent fish in a tank that is only big enough for one, you can’t stop watching.

This is an exercise in death wish fulfilment, and the stakes could not be higher. Neither could the tension as the studio lights are dimmed and the on-stage violence, both real and illusional, is cranked up.

The allure of certain celebrity, which owes much to Kander and Ebb’s Chicago, dangles like poisoned fruit, but which man will dare to pluck it first? Needless to say, like all good thrillers, there is a terrific twist in the tale. My friend swears she saw it coming. I didn’t.

Grab yourself a strong drink at the bar downstairs, you’ll need it, and buckle in for one hell of an hour’s ride.

Sex Crime is at London’s Soho Theatre until 1 February

Go to: sohotheatre.com