Mark Ravenhill exploded onto the international theatre scene in 1996 with the provocatively titled and spectacularly successful Shopping & F***ing.

The New Zealand premiere of Some Explicit Polaroids finds the playwright in a more reflective mood as he draws a stark contrast between the frenzied anti-Thatcher activism of the mid-80s and the ecstasy fuelled "happy world" of London's fringe culture in the closing years of the 20th Century.

As the title suggests there are plenty of X-rated moments but Director Phillip C Gordon has opted for a stripped back production that avoids sensationalism and focuses on the anaesthetised despair of characters who inhabit the shadowy margins of a world drifting towards disintegrating.

The play's political concerns centre on a somewhat dated debate about whether ecstasy and hedonism are preferable to anger and socialism but the production finds contemporary relevance in its haunting vision of a society that has lost all sense of direction.


The unconventional, emotional damaged characters provide plenty of opportunities for the talented cast. Robert Tripe neatly captures the bewilderment of a one-time anarchist returning to his old haunts after fifteen years in prison for politically motivated violence.

Lucy McCammon elicits sympathy as a desperately optimistic stripper whose determination to live in the moment prevents her from dealing with a violently abusive boyfriend.

Andrew Ford brings an engaging irony to his portrayal of an Aids victim who cannot see the point of taking his medication while Roberto Nascimento establishes a strong physical presence as a Russian rent-boy with a pathologic fear of anything serious.

Edward Newborn's performance injects a more solemn tone as a deeply cynical businessman who comes to understand the emptiness of revenge while Rashmi Pilapitiya offers a ray of hope as a City Councillor who appreciates that the provision an efficient bus service represents an important victory for the inhabitants of London's bleak housing estates.

Some Explicit Polaroids is on at the Basement Theatre until Saturday.