by Andy Thompson
The Virtual Stage
Roundhouse Community Centre
Spank! may be the show that converts gamers to the virtues
of live theatre. On the other hand it may be the show that chases
gamers away from theatre forever. A play about gaming and virtual
reality that features some spectacular technical effects and one
terrific performance, it sometimes feels like it’s going to
go on forever.
The extraordinarily complicated plot takes place in a technically
advanced society in which people like Doug (Peter Wilson), a techno-designer
of some kind, have virtual servants like Rosemary (Natalie Kardum),
who monitors his every action from a tele-screen. Rosemary even
arranges a virtual date for the solitary Doug through “The
Girlfriend Simulator,” which produces video girl Flower (Sasa
Brown), a passive, pliable sexpot who invites Doug to spank her.
But Doug’s got more serious problems. Suffice it to say that
he ends up falling through cyber-space into another dimension where
he discovers that he and the rest of his world are merely part of
a video game run by creatures (including Peter New and Raphael Kepinski)
from this other dimension. He also learns of a plot by revolutionaries
(Una Memisevic and Yurij Kis) in yet another dimension (I think)
to overthrow those gamers, with consequences that might prove dire
for some. At least that’s what I think is going on.
Some of the technical effects are dazzling. Characters cleverly
interact with Jamie Nesbitt’s excellent video projections,
and there’s a great sequence where Doug enters the other dimension
via a video vortex. Patrick Pennefather’s sound design is
as interesting and effective as the videography.
But the writing is mostly flat and sequences that are clever for
two minutes tend to go on for ten. I don’t think Thompson
does himself a favour by directing his own script. A director with
some distance from the material might have convinced the playwright
to cut great swatches of it.
The play only took off for me midway through the second act when
Sasa Brown’s character somehow ends up channeling both the
revolutionary girl and the evil controller guy at the same time.
They fight it out vocally and physically inside her in a marvelous,
hilarious, exhausting sequence. Would that the rest of the play
had Brown’s energy and imagination, and this scene’s
brevity and wit.