MICF – Necrophilia

by | Apr 4, 2024

By Anna Hayes

 After a very successful Melbourne Fringe run in October of last year, Lincoln Vickery’s dark comedy gets its chance to tread the boards at The Motley Bauhaus until April 10, and it’s well worth a look for those who aren’t squeamish.

Yes, yes, there’s talk of necrophilia and dark happenings around deceased bodies but perhaps more agonising are the numerous moments of cringe worthy interactions that serve to remind many of teenage awkwardness that we all suffered when it came to love and dating, and all that jazz.

If I had to compare ‘Necrophilia’ to something, I’d say it’s American Pie meets Cronenberg’s Crash, with various other herbs and spices on top.

We open with Mark (Gene Efron) and Darren (Declan Clifford) discussing another taboo topic (which turns out to be fairly garden variety by the time we get to the end of the play!) and waxing lyrical about how their job is to make their deceased clients look ‘hot as shit’, even if some of the practices gave me flashbacks to a particularly unnerving episode of The X Files…

Mark talks about his lamentable attempts at dating, via Tinder, but it becomes very clear, with the arrival of their boss Amanda (Gillian Mosenthal) that there is, at the very least, a somewhat requited crush between these two.

This attraction plays out in a gruesomely awkward manner, though there are some wonderfully warm moments as well, particularly from Mark who tries to alleviate Amanda’s embarrassment of being caught dancing by singing to her. There’s a lot of charm in how their relationship develops.

Interspersed between these moments, are brief, somewhat vague soliloquies from Amanda as she confesses that she has a secret and gives some hints as to where it came from. We get the impression of someone who is torn by the notion of wanting something that she shouldn’t, in the same way that an addict might talk about needing a fix.

As the play unfolds, a chance meeting in a sex shop, coupled with an unexpected anomaly with one of their dead bodies, Darren and Mark (eventually) work out the truth, but will it stop there?

The play, for all its cringey humour and squeamish subject matter, does pose some interesting questions around the subjects of death, what it represents to those left behind, and the moral ambiguity around the notion of a victimless crime.

It also poses further questions around the ‘business’ of death, including questions around who truly decides for the deceased – this is explored through a humorously ironic exchange between Amanda and a poverty-stricken medical student, as well as a more touching discussion between Amanda and a grieving daughter.

The play pushes the notion that there are very few absolute morals and asks an audience to deliberate when one of them is itself called into question.

The cast, under the direction of Ben Ashby, is very strong, their performances bouncing off of each other to create believable friendships and connections.

Declan Clifford, as Darren, turns full circle, going from discussing victimless crimes in the opening of the play to being horrified by Amanda’s actions. He has great comic timing and stage presence.

Joanna Halliday plays a couple of characters, including the aforementioned med student (with wonderfully acerbic cynicism), a corpse who is used as something of a puppet, and, most notably, a grieving daughter struggling to decide what to do with her beloved father.

Gillian Mosenthal has perhaps the most to do as she is both an interacting character and an introspective one – her moments of moralising add depth to her character and while we might not agree with her actions, we can perhaps see where they might have come from.

Finally, Gene Efron as Mark gives a wonderfully awkward performance as someone who has clearly had largely unfulfilling relationships and isn’t really sure of how to engage with someone on a more meaningful level.

My one criticism for his character (not his portrayal) is that his final anecdote feels like it comes very much from left field; we aren’t given any real context or earlier breadcrumb to suggest what he tells us, and, for that reason, it jars a little, especially as it’s followed by a rather abrupt ending.

The set is kept simple, with a central doorway in centre stage that allows for multiple entry points, and a medical gurney that is wheeled in and out for various purposes. Lighting is also simple, with a general wash for the main action and some well-placed spots for Amanda’s confessions.

All in all, Necrophilia is an enjoyable piece of theatre (and there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write!) that you can take as much or as little as you want from (this sentence isn’t getting any better!).

But in seriousness, there’s enough meat on the bone here (last one, I promise!) for people to walk away with some lingering moral questions, maybe even to provoke a debate on the tram ride home. But, if you don’t want to take things too seriously, it’s an amusing hour for those who just want to have a good laugh at some dark comedy around a taboo topic.

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