Pros: A well written marital drama.
Cons: At times the concept does not quite match the delivery.
The Sexes is a marital drama in which the husband and wife are played by actors of the opposite gender. Not only that, but the fictional couple also happen to be actors themselves, so you can imagine how deep the meta interpretations of this production can go.
It’s a two hander, played out in a hotel room. The couple are failing actors past their prime who have stumbled upon a career-saving role, a prostitute who just happens to have no gender assigned in the script. So begins an argument about male and female portrayals of character which drags the couple to the depths of their own relationship.
This is a stripped-down version of the original show which was first performed at the Brighton Fringe in 2010. I don’t think it could be stripped down much further. The set consists of two chairs and the actors are dressed in simple costumes indicative of gender. Both are wearing skull caps. I do wonder if the production has been stripped down a little too much. It might have been helpful to have a few props and items of set, especially when the actors reference an array of personal objects through mime and gesture. Where this stripping down does excel however, is in giving the script freedom to breathe. This opens up the production to a variety of interpretations.
My feelings towards this show are very ambiguous. It balances precariously on the line between conceptual masterpiece and a show that is trying to be too clever for its own good. I’m not entirely convinced that the gender swapping adds a great deal to an already intelligent script, and with the costume being closer to drag than gender swapping in this instance (and perhaps this version of the show), the concept may have been stronger than the final presentation.
This is a heavy, text-based performance and writer-director Polis Loizou’s script could easily be seen as the third performer here. This is not to say that either of the actors are upstaged by the writing, but that in this simply directed performance, words and ideas are as important, if not more important, than the performers speaking them.
The show is presented as part of the Camden Fringe at the Etcetera Theatre, and with a start time of 6PM during the week, this is not the first Camden Fringe show I’ve seen that would have benefited from a slightly more audience-friendly slot in the programme. The theatre itself is quite tricky to find, tucked away above The Oxford Arms. Once inside the pub, it was still a bit of an adventure to find the theatre and even when I knew where the entrance was I almost ended up walking into the ladies toilets!
The Sexes is a dark show; one which requires some processing time afterwards. Putting this review together the morning after, I’m still not entirely convinced that I have fully processed how I feel about the performance. It has left me with much food for thought, and as such it is clear that a lot of time and thought has gone into the writing and direction of this show. I’m clearly still undecided on my own opinions, but if you are a fan of dark, text-heavy performance then I see no reason not to thoroughly recommend that you go and see this show.
Author/Director: Polis Louizou
Booking until: 16 August 2015
Box Office: 020 7482 4857
Booking Link: http://www.etceteratheatre.com
An after-note: In the same week that Benedict Cumberbatch has made headlines asking audiences not to film or photograph his performances of Hamlet, one audience member caused much distraction at this show by shooting it extensively on their camera phone. Please don’t do it!