Members of the cast of Incognito Mode: A Play About Porn. Photo by Emily Cooper.
Members of the cast of Incognito Mode: A Play About Porn. Photo by Emily Cooper.

In the season opener for Studio 58, the professional theatre program at Langara College, the students tackle the taboo in Incognito Mode: A Play About Porn.

Billed as “a generational exploration of pornography in the digital age”, it doesn’t take long to figure out that the experiences of this online generation are little different from those that proceeded it. The arguments for and against, and the uncomfortable way in which we talk about it, appear to be no different from generation to generation. The only real difference is in how little effort it takes to obtain porn these days.

Consent, rape, kink, addiction and other related topics all make an appearance in Incognito Mode, but it is all superficial with little meaningful conversation around what it all means. It is largely presented as a set-up to what is to come. For if you dig a little deeper you realize there is more to Incognito Mode than merely by what is being presented as part of this year’s Studio 58 mainstage.

Born out of Studio 58’s Risky Nights series last year, in which the students create and perform an original theatre piece, Incognito Mode has since been reworked and expanded with the aid of Neworld Theatre’s Marcus Youssef into what is currently on stage.

The result, on stage now, is actually the second of three phases for Incognito Mode, with the next step to include a tour of post-secondary institutions, where the play will be coupled with a workshop around the subject matter. The planned workshop is being created by the students with the help of researchers from SFU and Emily Carr who are part of an even bigger project addressing sexual violence on university campuses (it could be argued this discussion should be happening at an even earlier age).

It is in this larger context where one can see how Incognito Mode could work. As a standalone production though it is missing something, failing to provide any real insight into “the personal, social, and ideological consequences of growing up as part of the first generation with unfettered and on-demand access to internet pornography”.

Hopefully that something will come in the project’s final phase.

Incognito Mode: A Play About Porn devised and written by Marcus Youssef in collaboration with and featuring the 5th term students of Studio 58. Directed by Chelsea Haberlin. A Studio 58 / Langara Collect & Neworld Theatre production. On stage at Studio 58 (100 West 49 Ave, Vancouver) until October 14. Visit studio58.ca for tickets and information.