Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Rough Sex Scores OK!

Great Craic at the Pavilion Theatre last night, with the opening night of Is This About Sex? from Rough Magic as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. Somewhat of a post-tiger bedroom farce, this comes across as a well-written (and directed) study in questions of identity, masculinity, fidelity and, for at least one character, food as a sex substitute. With the main character drawn to cross-dressing and much talk of cavemen and cunnilingus, one might expect this production to be a nudging titillator for the chattering classes and so it proves to be - to a point. The humour is pretty upfront, especially early in the play, serving to eyeball a few taboos that aren't really taboos any more, but which get more lip-service (!) in public than in the workaday bedroom lingo of lovers' lives.

In the programme notes, the playwright Christian O'Reilly offers his view that the sexual revolution in ireland is quite a few steps behind our UK counterparts, which may be why the play received a somewhat quizzical approach at Edinburgh Festival Fringe. That may be true, but I wouldn't burden this production with any heavy responsibility for moving our collective arse very far along that slippery road. It's more of an after-dinner yarn, and a funny one at that - with some very comic throwaways in the script.

Solid performances all round, particularly from Darragh Kelly as 'would-be woman' Daniel, and a very strong comic turn from Rory Nolan (he of the mugging Meteor ads?) - no relation BTW! The 'guys' have great material to get their teeth into; covering the aforementioned caveman schtick, the self-doubt of an overly-generous male, the performance-obsessed, competitive lover - all well-observed insights into the Platonic Cave of Irish masculinity. The female characters seem less successfully drawn, although Hilary O'Shaughnessy brings a tender, funny femininity to her role as Cathy and Ali White attempts to invest her character, Kay, with real depth as she deals with a spluttering attempt at an affair, sexual confusion as well as fitting in a decent lunch! Ruth Hegarty plays an insistent role as Kay's interfering friend Angela.

It's definitely the 'good laugh' that's at least part of the writer's stated intentions, but I couldn't find the eventual segue from bed-hop to personal enlightenment wholly convincing. Well worth the ticket though - and if you make it along tonight (Oct 2nd) you can take advantage of a post-show discussion with the writer as well as director Lynne Parker, who's done an excellent job in staging this genuinely entertaining piece.

Setting a fine precedent for the inclusion of the Pavilion in the Festival as a whole, it was gratifying to see a well-deserved full house - including at least one Booker nominee ;-) - to mark the occasion! Is This About Sex? runs at the Pavilion until 13th October.