I Promise You Sex and Violence aims to shock. But if the company thinks this show is making an urgent socio-political statement, it certainly doesn’t come across. Instead the production is dull and lightweight, and the offensiveness of its characters is misjudged and pointless.
Bunny (Keith Fleming) sets up his flatmate, Charlie (Esther McAuley) with Raymond (Reuben Johnson). Charlie is crestfallen when she discovers that Raymond isn’t the “proper black man” she was expecting, and what follows is an hour-long shouting match of homophobia, racism and misogyny. Raymond hates his own racial identity, and hates the homosexuality of his best friend Bunny even more. The group becomes less a love triangle and more a spiky, shape-shifting love octagon, as the characters oscillate between lust and hatred toward one another.
The idea seems to be to expose latent prejudices by showing the audience extreme versions of themselves. But the conclusion, a wincing suppression of their unpleasant instincts, comes too close to acceptance to provide a satisfying political stance.
Politics aside, this is just bad drama. Scenes are convoluted and crass, and the offensive material just becomes flabby. The sex and violence here don’t reveal anything interesting, don’t stand for anything else, and don’t have the taut energy that this kind of material really needs.
This bad writing is coupled with some bizarre performances – the three characters seem to be acting in totally different plays: Fleming is the most convincing, McAuley strays into sitcom insincerity, and Johnson is weirdly overblown.
Incorporating probably the only (and most pointless) revolving stage at the Fringe, I Promise You Sex and Violence is a resounding misfire. Its tedious humour is barely watchable – and it seems incredible that Northern Stage can have created such a confused and inadequate piece of theatre.
I Promise You Sex and Violence is at Northern Stage at King’s Hall (Venue 73) until 23 August. For more information and tickets, visit https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/i-promise-you-sex-and-violence