With a suggestive show title like that, The Outfit Theatre Company have left themselves nowhere to hide. There really isn’t any ambiguity behind what the show is about and I was expecting nothing less than one hell of a raunchy show that was both confronting and entertaining.
Following a successful run during the 2011 Auckland Fringe, The Outfit, who have been touted as “one of Auckland’s slickest young companies” have redeveloped and reworked this award-winning, provocative show and are back with a return season. Drawing on the personal experiences and sexual secrets from not only the cast and crew but over 114 brave participants of an anonymous online poll, The Sex Show follows an array of different colorful characters and couples on an erotic whirlwind of sexual encounters, struggles and fantasies. Joel Herbert, the director, sums it up best: it is a “snapshot of New Zealand’s sexual psyche”.
With brief flashes of full-frontal nudity, plenty of simulated sex, weird fetishes and a few hand jobs thrown in for good measure, this show is definitely not for the conservative! It tackles possibly the most taboo subject in society but thanks to the excellent direction, some fine writing by dramaturg Gary Henderson and polished performances by the cast, the show is actually not uncomfortable to watch with plenty of great one-liners, comedic moments and interesting insights about the sexual appetites of this country.
Featuring a massive ensemble cast of nineteen actors, there are a lot of characters to get acquainted to and I often found it hard to keep up with who’s who and the intersecting, episodic storylines. The overall narrative arc is rather fast-paced so you don’t get much time to connect with any of the characters, which is a shame. But each actor does get their time to shine and I thought they all performed brilliantly. I especially enjoyed the mischievous antics of the Sex Panda and his two cheeky sidekicks, Fellatio Fox and Cunnilingus Cat – how can you not with names like that?
The set is minimalistic with just boxes that light up but they are seamlessly and strategically moved around with each scene change to create different spaces. Coupled with the gorgeous chandeliers and appropriate mood lighting, the stage is visually scintillating which helps complement the actors’ performance and bring the story to life.
Unfortunately what dampened the experience for me was the sound issues which is largely due to the poor acoustics of the auditorium. While the size of the stage and performance space is an ideal fit with the story, I do think the Concert Chamber is probably not the most appropriate venue for this production. There is a lot of movement to and from the stage which is distracting at the best of times but unfortunately was made all the worse with the hardwood floors. My attention kept getting diverted every time the female actors strutted up and down in their heels.
Furthermore unless you are sitting at the sidelines, the stage is a bit of a distance from the audience so in the scenes where music was present, some of the dialogue does get drowned out. I also think the structure of the story should have catered for an interval; ironically it was more uncomfortable sitting down for almost two straight hours than it was watching couples getting it on!
These are of course things that can easily be rectified and I hope if future seasons are planned, that an alternative venue definitely be considered. The production itself is absolutely top notch with great levels of authenticity and honesty to both the story and the performance. Putting up something like this that pushes the boundaries is definitely an audacious move, and flaws aside, I do think they have done a remarkable job. It takes a great deal of bravery to tackle such a controversial topic and even moreso for the actors to engage in such an intimate act on stage for all to see so I have the utmost respect for everyone involved.
The Sex Show is sexy, seductive and incredibly risqué but a whole lot of fun! It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you have a great sense of humor and like your theatre on the naughty side, this is the show for you.
The Whimsical Banana rates The Sex Show: 3/5 sexy bananas!
The Sex Show is presented in association with STAMP and is playing at the Town Hall’s Concert Chamber until the 13th October. For more information and to buy tickets, click here.