As we take our seats for The Sex Show at Galatos, a couple lies ‘behaving’ on a black box representing a bed. He is restless. She reads a book. Is this the state of New Zealand bedrooms across the country?
The Sex Show is a devised Fringe show by ensemble group Outfit Theatre Company under the direction of Joel Herbert, who say the show is a “snapshot of New Zealand’s sexual psyche”. They collected stories from “114 brave souls” who shared their sex lives in an anonymous online poll, and devised the show with just over 60 hours of rehearsal time.
Don’t let the lack of preshow action fool you, if the show is anything to go by kiwis are getting lots of sex, though the quality is debatable. Throughout the sex is grungy, bumbling, frustrating, and often not very sexy at all. A lot of it – almost all of it – comes via liquid courage or harder drugs. Two guys root two gals in nearby cubicles in a club toilet, they realise they know each other and start chatting during the act. It’s over far too soon, the women far from satisfied. One of the guys raises his hands in triumph. Sex. Yeah.
The play is told through theatrical montage, story strands and scenes cutting and intercutting between each other. With an ensemble of 19 actors there are a lot of characters to get through, but this is managed through lighting quick scene transitions, and the show moves and flows very well. The storylines are many, and some intersect. A selection: There is the husband (Devlin Bishop) and wife (Kate Lumb) who have marriage (and therefore sexual) problems – he gets seduced by one of his much younger students; she goes to a sex party. There is Ross (Chris Neels, who brings on the funny) with a crush on his best friend (Sarah Graham). There are the guys and gals at the club looking for love, but only getting casual sex (Pete Coates and Colin Garlick are appealing comic duo as typical kiwi lads). There is Grace (Holly Bradfield), married to a repressed reverend (Matt Baker), who goes on a sexual awakening with the help of Sex Panda and his friends (an absurd trio in kinky outfits). The striking Gypsy Kauta as Inana, an Amazon Warrior type, watches over it all.
The actors throw their bodies into the work, so to speak, and yes there is repeated nudity which takes some… balls. Seated at the bar end of Galatos, I often had trouble hearing the actors, and they needed to add volume to fill the theatre space.
There are many winning moments – an X-rated parody of The Sound of Music’s ‘These are a few of my favourite (gay) things’ is one of my favourite things. Kauta’s Inana and her minions bring a wonderful excessive (bordering on grotesque) sexual energy in counterpoint to the ‘realistic’ stories.
However, the stories are told without much complexity, and there is a heavy dose of cliché. Take the Rev who hates sex, and his innocent wife who wants to learn more… it’s simple, doesn’t ring true, and the characters are presented in very black and white way. I didn’t get much of a sense of what it is that makes kiwi’s specifically tick in bed, and there’s a bit of a missed opportunity in that department. The real nod to the kiwi culture is the character of Joe Masters, and All Black who has one of the more dangerous sexualities , well done for skewering this sacred cow guys!
The show has great breadth, humorously playing with many sexual positions (so to speak), but I feel there are more depths that they can plough. Like sex, it’s not exactly subtle.
The Sex Show plays as part of the Auckland Fringe at Galatos until March 8th.
More information at the Auckland Fringe Website.