What people said
Theatre Review: ProjectB’s S.E.X
Written by Lane
If you didn’t already know it, the company’s latest production, S.E.X, would have left you in no doubt… ProjectB likes to have fun. From the ‘Audiovisual foreplay’ (a series of well-chosen images put together by PB’s Francoise Greenacre to the sound of Tone Loc’s Wild Thing) that opened the show, to the brilliant conceit that was the final act of the evening (more on that later), S.E.X was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Consisting, in the main, of six short plays, the show as a whole was all about having a good time, which worked to give the more poignant moments of the evening a lot more weight.
The first play up was The Secret Sex-Life of Snails, written by Carrie Lillie and directed by Dan Jacobs and featuring Lillie herself and the always value-for money Shivvy Sheehan as two snails working out the complexities of hermaphroditic love-making in a relationship. With discussions on whose turn it is to be the boy or girl (with all the politics that involves) and the idea of snails removing their shells to get down to a little bit of slug role-play, this short, comic rib-tickler was just right for kicking off the show.
Next up was Sometimes It’s Just That Way, written by Mary Kopecky and directed by Sarah Szucs and featuring Kopecky and Arnau Gol as a couple who appear, I imagine, to spend a lot of their time separated because of the guy’s job, and perhaps are often too tired to have sex because of hers. For me, at its heart, this was a play about longevity, and about sticking together by understanding how sex and intimacy can evolve between two people in a committed relationship. The scene itself is one of simple, mundane quotidian existence, which only serves to make a mid-dream monologue on love and sex – delivered simply and sweetly by Kopecky – more impacting. Food for thought, anyway.
Third up was probably the most significantly serious play of the show, Seven, a lengthy monologue starring Sarah Szucs as the play’s only character Ruby and written and directed by Dan Jacobs. Given the complexities of our modern social make-up and our ever-evolving concepts of physicality, psychology, self and sexuality, it makes perfect sense that a show calling itself S.E.X should include a play that touches upon the issue of being transgender. Szucs gives a nice performance as a woman in her early forties (or mid-thirties depending on your perspective) looking back on the trajectory of her life from childhood to where and, more importantly, who she is now. This is very much a play about identity, about how we define ourselves – and about how much both biology and societal norms and expectations influence those definitions – and the character of Ruby is the perfect conduit for that discussion, a child of the so-called sexual revolution, a revolution which, looked at dispassionately, is such in name only. It turns out that Ruby started off life as a boy, yet whatever the stance on and comprehension of what gender means to those around her, the knowledge of who Ruby is meant to be is there for her from the beginning, and her own understanding of it, and what it means to her, comes most clearly for the first time at the age of seven. A sensitive, though-provoking monologue for a society that really is, at long last, experiencing a sexual revolution.
The fourth play of the evening was F**k & Go, written and directed again by Dan Jacobs (and kudos to Dan for some fine work on this show), and starring David Chevers and Arnau Gol as a pair of guys who have just finished fucking after having met each other that night on a hook-up site and who suddenly find themselves having a weighty discussion about commitment – and the fear of commitment – and the importance of substantiality in human relationships. The discussion comes about when Gol’s character, Kent, freaks out after Hudson (Chevers’ character) brings up the possibility of a date on the strength of a moment of perceived connection. There’s a real frisson between Chevers and Gol on stage, both sexual and antagonistic, which is perfect for what is happening between them; basically, ultimately, an affirmation of the idea that whatever the catalytic circumstances of a given situation, when an opportunity for something arises, one should always slough off the fear and the comfort of the habitual to break free of the preconceptions we use to protect ourselves from imagined harm (but which actually just isolate us from experience) and grab at that opportunity. F**k & Go was a sweet, effective little vignette about the power of the positive.
Next was FedEx Date, a brief little comedy – or perhaps we should really call it a sketch, since the end is very much a punch line - written by Mary Kopecky and directed by Dan Jacobs. It features Kopecky as a narrator telling the story of Julie, played by Carrie Lillie with slinky comic delight as the sort of seemingly highly sexed woman who in days of old would have invited the milkman inside for more than just a pot of yoghurt. Julie is reminiscing about her former lovers Tom, Dick and Harry while apparently awaiting the arrival of William. We all assume that William is the FedEx man, who turns up like a porn-style delivery boy, in tight short shorts and no top, played by Mikel Tamarit. However, it’s what’s in his delivery box that Julie’s after. I’m saying no more.
The final play of the evening was a great way to finish off, an excellently comical story that worked on the premise of turning on its head what we think of as lewd and rude and what we think of as acceptable. Calling Trixi, written and directed by Carrie Lillie, introduces us first to Angie and Bea, played respectively by Shivvy Sheehan and Sarah Szucs as a pair of Eastenders-style cacklers, who appear to be talking quite openly about sex and cocks and fannies in all their physical detail as if it’s the most normal thing in the world, which, in the world of the play, it is. What really scandalizes these two women is what their friend Trixi – played nicely by Elena Sandell – gets up to. She tells men her innermost thoughts. Not only that, she listens to theirs… on an inner-thoughts phone line. And that is both the point and the conceit of the play. As Angie and Bea constantly point out, sex is just biology, the bits that we have that make us all the same. It is, however, our thoughts that make us different, it is our thoughts that are the most personal, intimate things about us, and sharing them out willy-nilly, posting them on Facebook or telling a man on a first date, well, in this world, that’s just loose, immoral behavior. What a brilliant idea. I really wish I’d thought of it. Damn you Lillie! There’s also a nice little joke at the very end of the play when we are finally, briefly introduced to Steve (played by Ben Torbush). We’ve already heard about Steve’s cock from Angie and Bea… but guess what? Trixi recognizes his voice. The filthy beast! A nice gag to end a great night on a high note.
Now, before I finish off, I said above that the show consisted “in the main” of six short plays. However, in between each play, during the set changes, the audience was treated to some wonderful bits of silent(ish), physical comedy courtesy of Francoise Greenacre and Mikel Tamarit. Here we got to see what it was like for a caveman and a cavewoman to navigate the difficult rituals of sexual congregation; we were shown how easy it is to confuse the sounds of love with brutal constipation; there was a futuristic sex doll whose circuit boards appeared to develop their own hard sex drive (geddit?); some cute burlesque-esque cabaret; and a little bit of fun with the audience when a couple of people were brought onto the stage to engage in a bit of naughty Twister. None of that could have worked if Greenacre and Tamarit hadn’t been so brilliantly expressive or, indeed, clearly enjoying what they were doing.
So, to sum it up, I had a really, really good time. S.E.X progressed like… like, well, an enjoyable, successful bout of sex, I suppose. It started with some fun and games to get you all juiced up, and shamelessly rubbed up against your pleasure zones; it dived fully into the nitty-gritty, sweat-soaked sheets of abandon; and it made sure to allow for those serious moments of deep intimacy that make sex more meaningful, before finally reaching its joyous climax. Honestly, if I smoked, I would’ve laid back, Sybaritically sated, and sucked on a ciggie when it was all over.
Thanks, ProjectB, for a great evening… Oh and… call me, yeah?