Fringe Fest 2015: Pornography is stylish, uncomfortable, provocative, and ambitious

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      Playwright Simon Stephens’s compelling portrait of London in July 2005, a week marked by highs (a successful Olympic bid) and lows (the transit bombings), is structurally loose—it’s a collection of short monologues and two-person scenes that can be performed in any order.

      Director Mika Laulainen’s spare, stylish production offers overlapping snapshots of Stephens’ eight disparate Londoners—including a disenchanted businesswoman, a professor and his former student, reunited siblings, and a crushed-out high school kid—underscoring that it’s not just the bombers who feel adrift and alienated. When characters do try to connect, it’s frequently in ways that are very uncomfortable to watch. Laulainen has made some intriguing and questionable gender switches in the casting, but not everyone has the chops for the material, and the British idiom sometimes jars. Standouts Melissa Oei, Vanessa Crouch, and Victor Hunter deliver emotionally grounded performances, and the ending is potent and affecting in its simplicity.

      Ambitious and provocative.

      At The Cultch Vancity Culture Lab on September 12 (1 p.m.), 13 (5:15 p.m.), 15 (9:15 p.m.), 18 (9:50 p.m.), 20 (6:20 p.m.).