Adelaide Festival review: Green Porno

By / 18th of March, 2014
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THE Italian actress Isabella Rossellini openly discussed her exploration of sex, violence and depravity in Adelaide this month. No, it wasn’t the launch of a tell-all Hollywood book; but the Australian premiere of a show, Green Porno, that aims to educate its audience about the mating habits of the natural world.

A sex-education film

As part of the Adelaide Festival, Her Majesty’s Theatre hosted the stage adaptation of Isabella Rossellini’s short film series Green Porno. This production is a composite of the original short-film series, as well as material from the two subsequent series, Mamas and Seduce Me.

These short films about mating, sex and birth in the natural world are a hilarious matching of the costume and puppet design of Andy Byres with the superbly simple performance of Rossellini. She pulls no punches when imitating a selection of reproductive examples.

Rossellini has collaborated with French actor and writer Jean-Claude Carrière to adapt these works into an hour-long monologue that is interspersed with footage from the short films. Given that much of the footage is available to watch free online, is it worth seeing live onstage?

 


Seasons 2 and 3 of Green Porno.

 

When you enter the theatre it is clear that you are not about to see a grand theatrical event. The stage is uninspiringly bare, containing nothing more than a podium and a green projection screen, much like a lecture hall.

And a lecture is exactly what you get.

While there are a few props and costume changes in the show, most of the action takes place on the screen. Rossellini begins by assuring us that this production, while not being actually pornographic, will at least be obscene, although unlikely to end in a mass orgy.

So why do we need an actor to explain animal reproduction? Isn’t that a little like asking a biologist to explain Romeo and Juliet?

Talking sex

Daughter of actress Ingrid Bergman and director Roberto Rossellini, Isabella Rossellini, we know, is a model, actor, writer and director – and she recently began studying animal behaviour and conservation at Hunters College, New York. Not only is she responsible for portraying all of creatures in the Green Porno films, the project was initiated by her personal interest in the subject.

The films don’t exactly present us with a random selection of critters. Rather, Rossellini gives us a guided tour of a collection that she thinks we should see. While her characterisations on film are earnest and straight-faced, her live stage persona shows us more of the active intelligence and wit behind the creation of the show.

The facts of life

Rossellini gleefully describes for us creatures that seem to defy what we understand about the natural world.

Using hand puppets, cans of whipped cream, video and text we are shown wonders such as an immortal jellyfish, parthenogenesis (virgin birth) by insects and reptiles, the commonplace of homosexuality in the animal kingdom, cloning, hermaphrodites, transvestism, and everything in between.

 


Isabella Rossellini in Green Porno. Jody Shapiro/Adelaide Festival

 

The script does an admirable job of trying not to beat the audience over the head with philosophical comparisons – and almost always succeeds in walking a fine line between the factual information and a playful curiosity about the subject matter. This works best when we view the material simply through the genuine enthusiasm of our narrator.

While it is not necessary to see the stage show to appreciate the short films that Isabella Rossellini originally created, this piece holds together very nicely, creating an intimate, 75-minute experience that could not be replaced by video alone. I’m not sure how it is possible to wear a full body hamster costume, simulate giving birth and then eating a few of the babies – and still manage to be charming. Isabella Rossellini showed that it is possible (and seeing that outfit live was a rare treat).

Green Porno played at the Adelaide Festival. Details here.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.