REVIEW: Live Orgy (Auckland Fringe)

Name says it all

Explicit Education [by Guest Reviewer Amanda Leo]

Name says it all
What would Freud say?

Going to the opening night of a comedy show as part of Auckland’s Fringe Festival entitled Live Orgy I expected a night of raucous, explicit humour and was not disappointed in the least. My disappointment that I was not turning up for an actual live orgy was compensated by the jocular introduction of the show being a sex-positive feminist campaign to “Live Or Gy” as in “Live or Die” or “Live Or Gy[rate]”- whichever you prefer, really.

Live Orgy is written by and performed solely by Freya Desmarais, with amusing interjections by director-dramaturgist Brendon Green. Audience participation is prepped by Demarais’ presence on stage as the audience filters in. I am almost certain the show opened and ended with a Beyonce song (Beyonce is an option on Desmarais’ proposed sexuality scale) with Desmarais occasionally gyrating and grinding up seated audience members. The show properly begins with Desmarais’ voiceover, introducing herself as the next prominent Kiwi woman who is “better than Helen Clark” and Jenny Shipley (who apparently “doesn’t really count”) but is just “on par with Lorde”.

The show centers around Desmarais’ (wo)manifesto that sex-positivity should and must be taught in Kiwi schools, which was apparently inspired by a conversation she had with Green MP Catherine Delahunty during Desmarais’ days in Wellington as a Young Green. Humorously delivered in various anecdotal forms and accompanied by the occasional rap, she handles the audience skilfully.

Desmarais use of anecdotal stories and audience participation invite us to review our roles both as audience members and active participants in society. Discussion of rape and misogynistic sex education provide well-contrasted somber tones to the humorous premise of the show. The audience is invited (or, should I say, delightfully forced) to participate in the retelling of certain memories she has of sex education as well as assuming the role of volunteers in her own idea of how sex-positivity may be presented in sex education.

The set, presented to look like the stage of a variety show, features a glorious shell-shaped, vulva-like centerpiece. There’s a microphone stand and large teaching clipboard on stage left and an ironing board with various prop items like high heels and a banana (which I mistook for a dildo when I first arrived). The blurring of the lines between theatre and a traditional stand-up comedy show is clever and commendable. The informal nature of the show does seem to allow some room for improvisation, which serves well in allowing Desmarais to relate and cater to the individual audience. At times, this does hinder the transitional changes in lighting and sound. Desmarais, however, takes most hiccups into her stride effortlessly and does assert a few times that she is “not an actor”.

Live Orgy is a wonderful treat for the funny bone that will leave you in absolute stitches, particularly at her clever contextualisation of the general ideology of sex-positivity to Kiwi society. Her lighthearted acknowledgement of the various interpretations of feminism and well-articulated argument for sex-positivity are important anchors of this strong piece. This show brilliantly challenges much of the ignorant hate against feminism that exists today. You might even find, like me, that some of her humorous ideas challenge how far we can push teaching sex-positivite ideas in Kiwi schools, such as her argument that masturbation should be taught in schools.

Live Orgy was a thoroughly enjoyable experience that I would especially invite my conservative friends to attend. It is so brilliant to see such clever and humorous shows in Auckland’s Fringe Festival that actively seek to confront the misogyny that still exists within our society today in a positive way. My only regret is not being present when and if Catherine Delahunty was to ever attend the show.

Live Orgy plays as part of Auckland Fringe and Auckland Pride at The Basement until 11 Feb. Details see iTICKET

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Kathryn van Beek

Amanda Leo is a third culture kid who is about to start her Drama Honours year at Auckland Uni. A co-founder of Female Company, she is an avid tenth-wave feminist and actively hates raisins.

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