The warning of “nudity and sexual situations” is certain to guarantee an audience for “Some Explicit Polaroids,” although this production’s juggling of strippers, Ecstasy, AIDS, go-go boys, assassination and anarchy — as well as the eternal search for love — is never quite satirical or incisive enough.
The play bursts into life to the sneering tones of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K.” A man in a leather jacket sits in darkness onstage, and when the lights come up he draws a gun and shoots directly at the audience. The gunman is Nick (Bryan Jennings), fresh out of prison after some 15 years and already imposing himself on former girlfriend Helen (Jill Cary Martin).
Time has changed her: She’s now a local politician who wants to make it to Parliament, and ex-con anarchists who want to “Eat the Rich” aren’t her cup of tea anymore.
At the airport, the energetic Victor (Keith Bennett) — “great body, crazy guy” — has arrived from Russia to meet his online buyer/lover, Tim (Steven Parker) but instead meets Tim’s best friend Nadia (Erika Tai). She’s borderline desperate and only feels “love” when she offers her body to people as if it were a handful of candy. Tim arrives soon after with a real bag of candy — and Ecstasy — and an interesting menage a trois forms.
The first great twist comes when MP Jonathan (David Cramer) talks to Helen about her political aspirations, then pointedly asks her where Nick is living, putting these people on a collision course.
In different ways, they are all products of a state system — a system they rely on in the same way that Nadia relies on makeup to cover the bruises from her (unseen) boyfriend. Be it hospitals, prison or Parliament, a system controls all their lives, and Nick can’t understand why nothing’s changed since he was inside.
The stage is decorated in the red, white and blue of the Union Jack, and pictures of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair adorn the walls alongside anarchist slogans and symbols.
Decor echoes the lack of overall coherence in the text. Ravenhill, whose debut play “Shopping and Fucking” was an infamous worldwide success, doesn’t write well enough for the female roles. Helen is little more than an outdated, irrelevant Thatcher wannabe, and with only a Madonna/whore parallel between them, neither Martin nor Tai has much to work with.
Dave Barton’s lackluster direction doesn’t elevate them above being a titillating sideshow for the male machinations, and the actors’ wavering English accents don’t help them either. However, Jennings’ excellent accent adds greatly to his convincing performance.
Play’s second half is much more involving, with Parker and Bennett sharing a moving and effective death scene that echoes “Six Feet Under” and “Angels in America” and produces the only real emotion and empathetic moment for the audience.
The overall experience is more gratuitous than revolutionary.