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Prurience review at Southbank Centre, London – ‘astute and discomforting’

Christopher Green in Prurience at Southbank Centre, London. Photo: James Norton Christopher Green in Prurience at Southbank Centre, London. Photo: James Norton
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There’s nothing really prurient about Prurience. Christopher Green’s show is a clever and discomforting exploration of consumption – compulsive and conscious – in late stage capitalism that takes the form of a porn addiction self-help group. It’s also contains an immaculate coup de theatre, in which layers of illusion are built up and pared back before a big reveal.

At the centre of it all is writer-director Green as Chris, the leader of the session and custodian of the Prurience programme. As he invites the audience-cum-addicts to share in each other’s “energy” he’s nearly always on the smiley and professional side of patronising. Like an earnest teacher prone to occasional bouts of cattiness, he lets the group know about a table of available herbal teas, plus biscuits “for those who still have an issue with sugar”.

It soon becomes humorously clear – via a merchandise stand that includes baseball caps – that Prurience is a cultish and trademark-registered money-making operation, with an official song and range of videos – awkwardly-edited to perfection – that feature coiffed leader Amelia Atkins stroking limpid pools of water.

What appears at first to be an insensitive, albeit entertaining, parody of therapy and addiction becomes something richer as levels of distortion and audience expectations are subtly managed.

We may think we have the measure of the actors in our midst doing confessional shtick about cocks, fisting and neural pathways, but Green and company confound us, drawing profound attention to the warped notions of pleasure, pain and privacy that are peddled by contemporary pornography.

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Verdict
An astute immersive show about porn addiction that plays with levels of reality and audience unease
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