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A CurtainUp LondonLondon Review
by Lizzie Loveridge

Is it freedom or escape?
--- Dave
Age-Sex-Location is a new play from Marcus Markou which explores the ability of people to play out their imagination and fantasy on the internet. This is a fun look, not at the seedier aspects of the web, but at the opportunities for people to come together. Because Age-Sex-Location is set initially in a chat room which uses web cams, the people in Dave's (Ed Stoppard) web child, Freetopia, know what each looks like.

The first act sets up the characters of the main players. Like The Naked City there are millions of stories out there. There is Dave himself, in his dressing gown, net facilitator, willing ear and narrator. Minnie Mouse (Amber Agar) is a thirty something, intelligent frump who falls for Dave. There is Rachel (Jane How), the woman who sobs into her webcam and says nothing. She is a mysterious figure who inspires people to ask why is she crying. Trevor (Ewen MacIntosh) suffers from his physicality, being smally endowed and coupled with enormous obesity, he is in an abusive marriage. Rose (Katherine Jakeways) is a paraplegic, confined to a wheelchair. Her interaction with the net is to blow each letter of each word in a painfully slow and breathy stream. Rose, despite her disability, has a powerful dominatrix personality and dishes out orders as if her tongue were a whip. Finally McGill, (Richard Durden), is an aging television star of the series StreetMonk who combines crime fighting with Buddhist monk philosophy and kung fu. Gus (Omer Barnea) is the devil like, leather clad Dutch hacker who threatens everyone's privacy and security with his roving role.

The second act sees the cyberspace personae of the Freetopia clientele. Each gets the opportunity to be who they would like to be. Minnie Mouse transforms into a delightful Monroesque sex kitten, lisping and falling out of her red frock. Rachel sets up an agency to listen to children and in the play's most powerful piece, we receive the explanation for Rachel's tears. McGill is given the real life heroic opportunity to help a young fan who has cancer. Rose is first given speech recognition software and then her cyber self regains the use of her body.

The man behind the video, lighting and Freetopia's television monitors is Sven Ortel who designed the video projection effects for Hitchcock Blonde and Jerry Springer- The Opera. His effects have enabled both the actor and his cyber personality to be onstage at once. The red curling flames of the fire in Rachel's scene are very effective and add to the emotional power of her story.

Some of the sound in the cyber scenes was overstated and occasionally there was lighting spill but the production, like many of the young collaborators, is a work in progress. Although Age-Sex-Location does not have the chat room technology and tantalising pace of Patrick Marber's Closer, when type appeared as it was entered on a huge screen, the actors face front as if typing their thoughts onto a monitor in this cyberly connective world. The performances director Pip Pickering has elicited in Age-Sex-Location are top notch and the play is an interesting exploration of cyber creativity.

Written by Marcus Markou
Based on a short story by Marcus Markou and Richard Redman
Directed and designed by Pip Pickering

With: Amber agar, Omer Barnea, Richard Durden, Jane How, Katherine Jakeways, Ewen MacIntosh, Ed Stoppard
Video and Lighting Designer: Sven Ortel
Music: Conor Mitchell
Running time: Two hours twenty minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 8237 1111
Booking to 28th February 2004.
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 12th February 2004 Performance at the Riverside Studios, Crisp Road London W6 (Tube: Hammersmith)
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