From the basement of East London’s The Glory to the ‘attic’ of the Soho Theatre Alexis Gregory’s play, Sex/Crime (and it’s wipe-clean set) illuminates the secret sex-lives of gay serial killers and their admirers. Being a ‘fan’ is apparently far too common.
Sex/Crime is a dark dash through the underbelly of a city gripped by murder as two men encircle each other, in a deep pit of lust, fetishism and pain. And it’s also very funny.
A (Johnny Woo) is the consummate professional ‘master’, conducting customer service questionnaires, relaying terms and conditions and ensuring his client, B (Alexis Gregory), is aware of what he’s about to get himself into. B on the other hand wants to pay a significant amount of money to be made to ‘forget who I am’ and in a way that mimics the style and manner of the omnipresent serial killer at large. And that’s because B, who has not read the T&Cs, is not simply seeking your run-of-the-mill sex-dungeon experience. He is insistent, to the point of hysteria, that A recreate the ‘authentic experience’.
The writing is sharp, quick-witted and fast, complete with cultural reference points throughout that make both characters, at times, disarmingly familiar. And that creates a tension between the actors and the audience. B’s incessant pleading and underlying desire for human closeness, even at the end of A’s boot, can give rise to empathy. His need for connection is all too human and that draws the audience closer.
Elsewhere this is pulled apart, as we are reminded of the grisly context in which both A and B find themselves in. The descriptions of inflicted pain are exquisitely detailed, the screams are loud and B physically pleasures himself when recounting the gory methods employed by the serial killer ‘out there’. The violence between the two is largely left up to the our own imaginations as blackouts punctuate the narrative and leave us to fill in the blanks. It’s enough to make the audience squirm.
The dynamic between both actors is fiery and up tempo through-out. East Johnny Woo, is cool, calm and collected as A giving an acerbic edge to his customer service whilst Alexis Gregory brings a manic energy and high-camp performance to the role of B. There is also an exploration of the shifting power at play as dynamics between the two unfold over the hour.
Sex/Crime is a stylised exploration of the desire for violence in sex. But it’s more than just that; it’s about the strict moral codes and transactional nature we all live within (even when it comes to taboos), it’s disturbing and funny and, as Woo’s character A reminisces, it’s about looking for ‘love in all the right, and wrong places.’
By Tomas Thornton
Alexis Gregory’s Sex/Crime runs at London’s Soho Theatre until Saturday February 1st 2020. For more details on the production and to book tickets, head to the Soho Theatre’s website.