Notoriously Yours
five.point.one @ Channel 9 Kevin Crease Studios
6:30pm, Sun 9 Mar 2014
Prior to Notoriously Yours, I’d only seen a pair of five.point.one productions – both out-of-Fringe season. One – The Lake – was a fantastic production, and the other – which will remain nameless – really, really rubbed me the wrong way. It received plaudits from people I respect, but… well, I hated it.
So there was a little bit of trepidation when I saw the five.point.one name at the top of the billing for this show in the Fringe Guide; but the early buzz had sounded better-than-positive, and it only had a short run, so I found myself in another cab dashing out to North Adelaide on Sunday evening. A quick stop to pamper myself with some favourite junk food (dirty dim sims from the Blue’n’White), and I scurried in to join somewhat disappointing crowd in the wide expanse of Kev’s Studio.
Notoriously Yours is thick and heavy with the tropes of a spy thriller – there’s an evil villain, exotic locales, and steamy seduction. But it starts out (not-so-) innocently: in need of some companionship, a woman (known only as “Her”) meets a man via Tinder. It’s a taut and arousing opening scene as the two characters aggressively flirt before tumbling into bed, but it soon becomes apparent that Him is under surveillance; Her is brought in for questioning, with the details of their brief relationship being bluntly presented. Their watchers, apparently, know everything… a message that is rammed home throughout the production. By leveraging her father’s shady past (as an Eastern European war criminal), she is effectively blackmailed into spying for her watchers.
A large screen dominates the centre of the stage; throughout the performance it shows scene titles, snippets of film, snatches of text that border propaganda, and video being captured by the actors’ mobile phones. Phones play a significant role in the play, acting as conversation conduits and tracking apparatus; being used for good and for evil, as well as for impromptu lighting sources. Dialogue is often clipped and blunt, mirroring abbreviated SMS-speak, but it’s fast paced and surprisingly gripping.
But it’s a shame that the tech-heavy opening is written out of the script – what started as a contemplative narrative on the data that we freely give to Facebook and Tinder gradually devolves to the point where there’s no technology in the story anymore. Don’t get me wrong, the action-heavy scenes are an entertaining distraction… but I’m left wondering what the point of Notoriously Yours was. Is it really – as the coda so bluntly expressed – a comment on the surveillance state? Or a suggestion that technology is more (or less) dangerous than real life?
Notoriously Yours picked up a cluster of Fringe Awards, and it’s easy to see why: it’s slick, stylish, and impeccably produced, with strong performances (Claire Glenn’s Her is a standout) and a decent script. If it wasn’t for the last minute (or so) of the piece, I’d have been singing its praises a lot more loudly; the all-too-neat resolution and escape led to a blunt textual flourish, reminiscent of a “see you next time” action-series send-off, and it all felt a little… well, garish in comparison to the rest of the production. Whilst there’s no doubting the engaging entertainment to be found in the first fifty-five minutes, the denouement left a cheap and sour aftertaste.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 9, 2014