Upstaged: Sex

Upstaged: Sex

By NellFrizzellIdeasTap 12/04/11

This week, Nell is dropping her drawers and slapping her britches to talk about sex on stage. And, why not? Eh? Nudge nudge? Wink? You sly dog. Wahey!

It’s not often, as an audience member, that you’re asked to snip off a lock of pubis, put it in a cup, pass it down the row and watch it get pasted on to your host’s face. I say not often. It depends if you watch most of your live theatre in neon-lit basement rooms in Soho, Amsterdam or Bangkok, I suppose.

And yet, there I was. Staring into the sweaty faces of my fellow audience members, clear plastic cup in one hand, colour-handled safety scissors in the other, wondering just how many of them were going to publicly trim their members in the name of theatrical interaction. Thankfully, I was wearing a jumpsuit – the material equivalent of a full body condom – which would have forced an approach to the pelvic region from either the ankle up or armpit down.

The show in which I was treated to this little slice of furry fetishism was Bryony Kimmings’ Sex Idiot. I watched it last week in Soho. Not one of “those” theatres, mind you – in the Soho Theatre. There was barely a fishnet body stocking in sight, unless you count my string bag full of sandwiches and spare cardigans.

The show was a series of colourful, musical and dramatic vignettes, tracing, examining and sometimes purging Bryony’s sexual past. There is the early relationship with an agoraphobic, briskly portrayed by smacking herself in the face with a bunch of flowers until she is left mournfully head-butting a green vegetative whip.

It was funny. But funnier if you have been similarly “headfucked” by relationship dysfunction. Then there was the heartbreaking portrayal of cheating, using bare skin, lipstick kisses, and a bruising scrub with a tissue. Not to mention the biologically specific song about sexual revenge.

What the show threw in to sharp contrast is the imaginative, creative and metaphorical ways in which sex can be shown on the British stage. Erections are off piste (and somewhat tricky during a one-woman show), oral sex can easily slide into student cliché and full on horizontal jogging is probably best left to the professionals.

So, what are we left with? Well, the first avenue is movement. The Royal Ballet’s snippet Sensorium created a more erotic atmosphere with a little lycra-clad spooning than Nicole Kidman has achieved in her entire career, while French farce like A Flea in Her Ear uses the bed hopping slapstick of “knocking up” to hint at what is going on behind those perpetually slamming doors.

Secondly, we have speech. The Royal Court’s Cock showed two fully-clothed actors talking through a sex scene in graphic detail. Forget voyeurism, this is verbalism, and pretty darned steamy it sounded, too.

The English language is awash with the salty puns of sexual intercourse, from Shakespeare’s “flesh’d soldiers” to Wilde’s “bunburying” with a sea of “froth”, “bobbing”, “cudgeling” and “rocking” in between. So it is perhaps of little surprise that so many sexual climaxes have been achieved through the vigorous thrashing of syntax.

When it comes to British theatre, who doesn’t enjoy a bit of aural sex? And who, when it comes to British sex, hasn't suffered a touch of stagefright?


Image by Narcsville.

Do you have a favourite theatrical sex scene? Let us know in the comments section below.

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