by Laura Kressly
What is ‘romantic’? A candlelit dinner and a bottle of good wine? Or being tied up, gagged and whipped?
To the young couple in dominion, the latter holds the most appeal. But S wants a bit more of the first, and D wants to keep pushing the limits of the second. The men’s love, though genuine, provides a nuanced look at S&M, consent and consequences in this new play by Greg Forrest.
The #MeToo movement and the work at Vicky Featherstone’s Royal Court seeks to eliminate the grey area between healthy work relationships and abuse, but this script contributes to the dialogue by boldly stating that grey areas in personal relationships are inevitable, particularly where fantasy, fetish and human nature are involved. Female-led plays like this year’s Vault Festival production Dirty Little Machine and Louise Orwin’s OH YES OH NO already address the struggle within feminist women who fantasize about being raped or degraded in the bedroom, but men are the only characters in this production. This indicates the sub/dom dynamic isn’t exclusive to a particular gender or sexuality and abuse can happen wherever there is a power imbalance.
Forrest’s script has some wonderfully precise dialogue and well-formed characters, with plenty of room for the performers to contribute. The ending is a let-down and some of the transitions are clunky, but a shallow redraft will address these issues. Its strengths lie in acknowledging that morals are fluid and living outside the sexual status quo isn’t always clear cut. Risks and role play are real, and playing pretend is more than just a game. The characters’ precarious power dynamic creates a commendably constant sense of unease.
There are some issues with lighting and staging, though the puzzling use of projection is eventually made clear. Josh Fish (D) and Sasha Kane (S) are great performers (though both white, young and with physical types too common in gay male theatre) with convincing chemistry, and this is a solid first outing of a play that doesn’t need much more work to become properly good.
dominion runs through 7 July.
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