Review By Emily Smith
D*ck Pics in the Garden of Eden puts an absurdist spin on the Bible’s condemnation of sex and propagation of shame, retelling the story we know so well with a feminist lens. The ensemble cast of eight swap around the roles of Lilith, Adam and Eve, their children Cain and Lulu, Lucifer, and newcomer and stand-up comedian Dick Dickson, as they move from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Suburbia, where the ‘first family’ navigate the modern world of sex with a biblical sense of shame.
The costumes are ridiculous: massive foam genitalia, protruding bum cheeks, full body stockings, and cheesy wigs. When Adam and Even first appear in the Garden of Eden they have extended heads that reflect their respective genitalia, making them into absurd puppets of their own sexuality. They also hold plush versions of their genitals which engineers the introduction of shame and double-standards when Eve is reprimanded for playing with her vulva by herself.
Video cameras on either side of the stage projecting a live stream onto curtains at the back of the set add an element of melodrama to the action. They allow for over-the-top close ups and slow zooms for an extra layer of absurdity, but they also encourage us to focus on the performer’s face and therefore take their emotion seriously, separate to their ridiculous costume. Having the cameras moved and focused by the characters not in the scene brings in the issue of framing, which is especially pertinent in this retelling of the Bible story.
The story of Adam and Eve has been reframed, firstly from Eve’s point of view, then Lilith’s, and in some ways Cain and Lulu’s as well. Adam is the one who comes off worst: a lazy, entitled husband to Eve, and an abusive, manipulative partner to Lilith. He is not a sympathetic character.
Some might say he deserved better, and as the only representative of a straight male on stage perhaps some will take umbrage at his unrelenting repulsive behaviour, but I say he deserves the criticism after millennia of being the protagonist of his story. Eve has been vilified for her ‘original sin,’ as if Adam didn’t also join her in it, for too long, and it’s time for his comeuppance.
Also, writer and director Jeffrey Jay Fowler said in the Q&A after Tuesday’s show that by and large the demographic who have expressed their resonance with the play, and with Adam and Eve’s relationship in particular, is middle-aged women. That’s a pretty damning insight into the state of long-term relationships around Perth, and hopefully a wake-up call to the men these women are married to.
Each character is exploring their own sexuality and grappling with the many hang-ups from their days in the Garden, and Fowler’s extension of the story does not go where Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would have predicted. First son Cain (Tyrone Earl Lraé Robinson) is a confident and successful porn actor, credited in the progamme as Cain, The Unashamed, which is spot on as he deftly organizes threesomes with his boyfriend, a hilariously camp Lucifer. As a character totally devoid of self-doubt or regret, Cain doesn’t have much room for growth which is a shame because I would have liked to explore his story a little more, but at the same time it’s nice to have a gay character who isn’t tortured by their own sexuality for once.
We get plenty of that in the new addition, Dick Dickson, played masterfully by Chris Isaacs. At first an unlikeable and unfunny stand-up comedian, he grows in his exploration of sexuality with Cain and becomes a more open and pitiable man. His “sad-boy” monologue after being dumped even brought tears to my friend’s eyes, and revealed a depth to him that didn’t come through in his ‘edgy’ offensive comedian routine.
David Vickman also deserves a mention for his work across various roles, from an idealistic young Adam, an aged and sensitive Lucifer, to a brilliantly unexpected guest appearance as God Himself. His performance is zany and always hilarious, taking the story to a whole new level of weird.
D*ck Pics in the Garden of Eden is simultaneously nonsensical and poignant, with some confronting personal moments that are only sometimes undercut by the absurdity of the costumes. Fowler’s script brings the Bible into modern times and shows how it is still relevant for all the wrong reasons. It’s not for the faint-hearted or prudish but a guaranteed conversation starter for anyone brave enough to leave the Garden.
Image Credit: James Grant