Pros: Hilarious, touching, revelatory and perfectly performed
Cons: Three songs isn’t enough, especially when they’re of this quality
Performed by a cast of eleven young actors, Spill is a verbatim enactment of interviews with dozens of young people about their experiences of sex. Devised by the cast, it’s part of Hotbed, the Camden People’s Theatre’s season of plays about sex.
Spill is set during a so-called “sex party”, at which the guests arrive sometimes singly and sometimes in groups, each relating their stories in an interwoven stream of reminiscences, beginning with the perception of sex from the point of view of pre-pubescent children. These are entertaining, often hilarious stories, each told with wit and panache.
The storytelling moves on to confessions of first experiences of sexuality, before continuing to a series of tales relating the loss of virginity with all its awkwardness, clumsiness, discomfort, guilt and frustrated expectation. “When I was younger it was like something you had to get rid of straight away,” reveals one performer. “He basically just about managed to get it in there,” confesses another. “But I remember more about the ceiling behind his head.” The stories go on to discuss where the participants have had sex, and where they would like to have sex: in zero gravity; in the Oval Office; in a phone booth on Route 66. Finally, the confessions move on to trickier subjects of transgender participants and sex fantasies.
All the tales are related verbatim, just as they were spoken during the interviews. They are performed with such natural ease that there’s no sense of the actors speaking someone else’s lines; you really start to believe that these are the people who feel these emotions and had these experiences. There are moments of theatrical ingenuity, such as when the female performer morphs into an identically dressed, identically gesticulating male performer as they discuss transgenderism. The stories are told to a sequenced backing track, which at times dulls to resemble the muffled sound of a party going on in the next room. Interspersed throughout the action are three jazzy, catchy songs performed by the cast in subtle harmony and accompanied by soft piano performed by Hal Kelly. The songs are all funny and touching, particularly the final Two wanks, an egg sandwich and I’m ready for the world.
Fitting a cast of eleven onto a tiny stage isn’t simple, but Maisie Newman’s impeccable direction is so fluid, and the cast so well rehearsed, that they appear to flow around each other with ease, with synchronised dance and humming punctuating the action. The actors are uniformly spot-on, with not a single missed cue or stumbled speech. Spill achieves exactly what it sets out to do, with faultless performances from a strong cast.
Author: Elana Binysh and Jessica Clough-MacRae
Director: Maisie Newman
Producer: Propolis Theatre
Booking Until: 29 April 2017
Box Office: 020 7419 4841
Booking Link: https://www.cptheatre.co.uk/show-tickets/?showid=sf5&id=5091