The original odd couple

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Are religion and porn in a symbiotic relationship?

It’s the question posed by the electro-shock black comedy The Garden, part of this year’s Perth Fringe Festival.

Sure to raise eyebrows, and blood pressure, it was penned by Hilton playwright Tiffany Barton (her Polly’s Waffle was a sellout for all sessions at last year’s fringe).

On the surface the fast-paced script is hilariously absurd, but it poses deeper questions about consumerism, religion and sex: “Dealing with concerns many people have with pornography,” Barton says.

By wrapping sex and naked bodies in guilt, religion creates a breeding ground for pornography, she says.

“The theory I’m posing is; does religion promote a shame-based approach to sex?”

The Garden is blacker and much, much more absurd than previous works, Barton says.

It kicks off with Eve (played by Barton) meeting the serpent in the Garden of Eden, then cuts to a 21st century dystopian world, about 20 years from now.

Cast naked from paradise Adam and Eve are in the pit of modern-day parenting, trying to regain their innocence as they struggle with shame, religion, pornography, drugs, booze, rampant consumerism, fast cars and lizard-tongued politicians.

The snake (played by Palmyra’s Angus Howell) is still sleeping with Eve, son Cain is a drug-dealing porn addict and his brother Abel is a “religious right wing Tony Abbott wannabe”, Barton says.

Online porn

Adam is the most likeable of the characters, but rejected by Eve he lives a lonely life masturbating to online porn.

“He loves Eve and just wants to be with her, but she won’t because the snake is more exciting.”

The Garden is about the search for innocence, intimacy, connection and love, Barton says. “[Which] are complicated by the consumerist society we live in.”

It also raises concerns about the sexualisation of youth, particularly young men.

“What is it doing to their sexuality and their relationship with women,” the mother of a 14-year-old boy poses.

After heading to the bright lights of Sydney to become an actor, she returned home 10 years ago disillusioned, and in doing so discovered a talent for screamingly funny plays dealing with deep social issues.

“It wasn’t until I had children I got my shit together. Before I was an out of work actor in therapy,” Barton says.

With awards aplenty at home she has her sights set on the Big Apple and hopes to take The Garden to the New York Fringe Festival next year.

The Garden is on at pop-up theatre The Noodle Palace, 555 Beaufort Street, Perth, February 13–24 at 7.45pm.

Tickets $25 from http://www.fringeworld.com.au.

by Jenny D’Anger

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