Director's warning: "this is not a documentary of outrage."
I may have taken the issue of sex tourism way too seriously that I forked out $12 to see a play allegedly touching on this issue.
The story of Sex Diary of an Infidel revolves around Jean (Kim Krejus), an award-winning journalist who is highly acclaimed for her report on Tony (Aaron Catalan), a teenage drug addict in Victoria. Exploring the possibility of another trophy, Jean together with her photographer/boyfriend Martin (Andrew Buchanan) travels to Manila to investigate Australian involvement in the sex tourism industry.
But just when I thought that the next scene would show the couple being ejected from a hotel owned by an Australian sex tour operator, the writer twists everything to satisfy those with infinite imagination.
As the story unfolds, Max (John Heywood), an Australian pimp and boss/occasional lover of a Filipino transsexual named Toni (Simon Chan) are entangled with Jean and Martin, respectively. The author, Michael Gurr undressed the character of Jean, surprising the audience that she and Max had been lovers many years ago and the sex tourism investigation was all but pretence.
Equally head spinning is the character of Toni who has been saving money for a sex-change operation in Hongkong. Out of his determination to put more in the "Hongkong piggy bank", Toni demands payment whenever foreign journalists interview or take pictures of him. Studying Toni for Jean's report, Martin becomes emotionally attached to Toni and eventually screws up his job for Jean. But it doesn't matter that much to Jean since she's more enthusiastic in the company of her old flame, Max.
To stir the imagination even more, Toni suddenly decides to abandon his plan for a sex-change and joins his communist brother up in the hills to wage war. Toni realises that throwing a molotov bomb in front of the U.S. Clark Air Base in Angeles City made him a different person. Toni confides to Martin that he felt his "balls" move after sustaining a scar on his face courtesy of the bomb's flames.
If I were still a teenager, I would probably buy the whole play - hook, line and sinker. If I were still a member of an experimental theatre group in the Philippines, I would probably hail Michael Gurr as a genius and constantly check theatres for his works. However, many things in my life have changed considerably in recent years - theatre perception included.
I've always been biased against artists who use a genuine social issue as a vehicle to launch their infinite imagination. Why can't they try their creativity somewhere else? My dissatisfaction with such kind of performance is not on the basis of political correctness but on the basis of credibility. But of course you can always blame the different framework we use in judging what is okay and what sucks. On this occasion, what is probably "stimulating" for Michael Gurr is "disappointing" for me. Though I should admit that I found some of the dialogue quite entertaining. In one scene Toni, referring to Max, says: "Yes, it's cultural exchange - he sells the culture and I keep the change."
Sue Rider, after mistakenly asking our opinion during the break, was kind enough to listen intently to our views. A lovely person, Sue offered to pick up news articles, pamphlets and newsletters on Australian involvement in the sex tourism industry in the Philippines from our office. She did turn up and promised to pin the articles around the lobby of La Boite. Thank you, Sue.