There is no shortage of plays about ‘women’s things’ on the stage, particularly in fringe theatre. When challenging the status quo they often risk being rather ‘in your face’, and a lecture is hard work for a night out. It also doesn’t necessarily make for a persuasive argument, as it can alienate the very people you want to inform. So it’s fabulously refreshing to come across Post Sex Spagbol, a chaotic comedy which still offers an intelligent and perceptive discussion of womanhood and the relentless, contradictory expectations demanded by society, but does it with colourful humour and polished, engaging performance. The story is told by a talented trio: Katie Bignell (who also wrote the script) Georgia Wilson and Signe Ebbesen. Peculiarly, they multi-role, but all play the same part…
We meet Krissy: she’s a bit of a mess and life is disappointing, like that post-sex bowl of spagbol that brings you right back down to earth. Krissy has been made the sex-ed teacher at an all-girls religious boarding school, even though she’s not qualified. Well, she’s been handed the position by her dad, who’s the head teacher. She’s split up from her boyfriend, who she wants back, and rowed with her mum. As we explore Krissy’s pathetic life story it’s clear there’s a whole load of societal rules about how to be the right kind of woman that she’s simultaneously up against, and together it’s all too much. In this destructive frame of mind she decides to mix things up a bit and consciously gives bad sex-advice to her pupils. What difference can it make? Her advice is hilariously outrageous, as she ‘myth busts’ with the teens on contraception, kinky sex practices and masturbation. Who knew if you have sex in the daytime you can’t get pregnant? It’s only when one of her pupils takes her dreadful guidance that she realises there are consequences to her actions.
The three performers are an impressively agile ensemble, bold, bawdy and cheeky. Flailing condoms, glugging rosé and posing for selfies, they are actually exposing unspoken truths about the difficulties of being a modern woman via Krissy’s pathetic life story. It’s hilarious and all very relatable but there’s knowing laughter and clear nods of recognition from the audience. Truthfully, we identify these things but generally no-one talks honestly about them.
The ‘mixing up’ is also happening in the cast. Caitlin Lee Smith’s slick direction sees roles being seamlessly passed between actors so the female voice and its message is clearly a shared one, across very different people. Simultaneously, Smith’s simple set choice of just a few stark white boxes is effective, used innovatively to move us from school to home to cemetery without distraction, while extra characters are signalled by adding just a few colourful costume accessories. Like the story, it’s all just the right size and shape for a fringe venue.
Bignell’s script is pacy, sassy and incisive. She takes handfuls of multiple social taboos and waves them unashamedly at the audience. Couched in comedy they may be, but through the laughter there’s a fierce recognition that someone else is making the rules for women and it’s time we should take the pressure off and just be who we are – all the same in being different. Krissy’s end monologue is a poignant climax of honest self-discovery and admission, where the words are shared between female actors, and it’s all the more moving for it. Yes, Krissy isn’t perfect, but aren’t many of us in the same boat? And given social pressures on women, who are we to judge her for it? This is an excellent play: and this is what a feminist looks like.
Written by: Katie Bignell
Produced by Thistle & Rose Theatre
Directed by: Caitlin Lee Smith
Post Sex Spagbol played as part of VAULT Festival 2023. It has now completed its current run.