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Sex Cells, Riverside Studios – Review

Anna Longaretti
Directed by James Barry
★★★★

Pros: A very easy production to watch. It is perfectly balanced and hits all the right notes on motherhood without pointing out the obvious or portraying mothers as martyrs.

Cons: If you aren’t a mum, some of the story might not have the same effect on you. However, this is the only minor con I can find.

Our Verdict: A truly well performed, directed and written play which is worth two hours away from the kids for.

Courtesy of Coy Content

Mum, Mummy, Ma, Mom, Maman, Mamma, Mutti – whatever we call them, we all have had, have or are a mother; some of us may even wish one day to be one. Some have complicated relationships with their children, many don’t want to ever let them go, a few want them out of their hair as soon as possible, most look forward to the time where they have a spare moment to go to the loo on their own or walk through the house without discovering jam on the walls or play dough in the carpet. All of this as well as the fear, unconditional love, anger, joy and frustration is explored during Sex Cells, the darkly witty but tragic play currently at Riverside Studios.

Walking into the theatre, the first thing we spot are boxes labelled “ Titivators” and “Venus Guy Trap” – this and the strong language being the reason for the 16+ certificate. Curious about what this is going to lead to, the audience are introduced to the characters working at Aphrodite selling sex toys in a call centre. Tiffany (Serena Giacomini) is an endearing but vapid 29 year old Essex girl who has no intention of stopping her partying ways to consider motherhood.  Janice (Kate Russell-Smith) is a  “mother and nothing else” of five who has no time to spend with her husband, is late for work everyday and lives surrounded by furniture covered in glitter. Sylvie (Alison Pargeter) is a French woman obsessed with having a baby, in order to “fulfill the role of a woman” and is unable to focus on anything else. Lillian (Jean Perkins), who is a mature lady whose most content hours are spent at work, has no relationship with her son and resents her husband whom she has had 36 hapless years of marriage with. Finally is their boss, Mr Causeway (Tom Butcher) who is a single middle-aged man, oblivious to much of what is going on around him but with a sensitive heart and a crush on Lillian.

The stories are heart-breaking but are made more digestible by the humour of the set – which was brilliantly created by Tina Gardner. These stories could have been told anywhere, except that the double entendre created by the title allows for some often much needed comic relief. For example, Tiffany discussing Mr Causeway’s singleton status while holding up a blow-up doll or Janice announcing that she is employee of the month, having sold 100’s of vibrators.

The characters and their relationships are very believable. Although there are some strong stereotypes, they never cross the line into being pastiches. Perkins in particular was wonderful as Lillian and her heartfelt performance really got the bottom lip trembling. I teared up on a couple of occasions – her portrayal of Lillian’s story made me want to text my mum. Russell-Smith’s Janice was also very natural with small, nuanced gestures making this character and her situation more understandable to the audience.

The audience and the characters alike are asked throughout the play, what does it mean to be a mother? “The most tiring, stressful, most rewarding job in the world”, “ The most intense emotional worthwhile rollercoaster ride in the universe.” These are just some of the things my mum friends said about motherhood, all of which were brilliantly, hilariously and poignantly captured in this production. If you have a mum, are a mummy, have had a mother or want to be a mamma, this is something you should definitely make time for yourself to see.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Sex Cells runs at Riverside Studios until 27th October 2013. Please note there is a Mother and Baby performance at 3pm on 17th October.
Box Office: 020 8237 1111or book online at

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