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Camden Fringe 2015

Sexual Perversity in Chicago

Prowl Theatre Company

Genre: Drama

Venue: Upstairs at the Gatehouse


Low Down

Prowl Theatre Company present David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago for the first time in twelve years. An exploration of language and communication that affects relationships and how that language can mask what we are truly feeling.



Perversity is language. The use of language. The vulgarity of language, the communication of that language and the difficulties that in itself can channel and pollute the closest of relationships. It also explores the ways in which we use that language to hide and mask our feelings and shows us how words can influence our views and how we think and at it’s worst, how we use this language towards one another.

The play is written in various places over Chicago in which the actors’ expertly go to. The fact that there is no set was a great way to offer us the underlying distance and alienation within all their relationships and focuses on the language, keeping us close to the characters.

Bernie, played by Tom Durant-Pritchard really understands the voice of this character and performs him beautifully. He really is the largest voice in the play and I was excited to watch him create and develop Bernie as the play progressed. He never falters and communicates Bernie’s insecurities and vulgarity as well as his bravado and eccentricities superbly well. And at times you almost have an affection for this character. It’s that thing where you love the guy that’s slightly wrong and awful but you do anyway. His presentation and delivery of the text was just a joy to watch and listen to from start to finish.

I had wondered how the staging of Joan talking to her imaginary school children would appear and I was not disappointed. This was one of the highlights for me. It was in this scene that I really understood what Joan’s problem is with men. And then Sophie Spreadbury showed me.

They all have something wrong with them in Mamet’s Perversity. I really enjoyed the performances and character choices brought to this run which were strong and well understood.

One of my favourite scenes in the text is where Bernie meets Joan earlier on. The reality of what Bernie preaches and knows about women are here in this scene. They never actually meet again. I loved watching them perform it as Joan develops her indifference into a great offense as she is bombarded with a series of incredible expletives that made the audience gasp. It was very effective. And as grueling and dirty as the language was they somehow made the words flow like poetry. 

Danny is played by Matthew Howell. Constantly seeking the approval and advice of Bernie in what he thinks and how he talks to women. A very lost and insecure guy and all too eager to learn and take advice from a very inappropriate source.

Deb, played by Jo Hartland is the least offensive character in the play. Possibly because her language a lot of the time is in silence. But when she does vocalise her upset, it is with feeling and passion and offers an articulate explanation rather than confusion and miscommunication. Her character internalizes her surroundings and her thoughts rather than exploding them in a messy way to her flat mate Joan. She has to deal with the language and attitudes around her. You can also see the toll the language takes on her happy – go – lucky first impression. Her objectives clear and thoughtful. 

A brilliant enjoyable and intense performance.