“By the end, the show is joyous and silly. The set a backdrop of vibrant, glittery and soft fabrics imitates this playful atmosphere”
Sex is getting more complicated. Out of the confusion and the strangeness, Pecs have created a non-binary cabaret performed by seven very different and very brilliant drag kings. The show interrogates masculinity, exploring not only vulnerability but what it is to inhabit the kinds of strength that masculinity offers. The result is an evening of songs, dance, comedy and dramatic pieces that create a picture of male sexuality as a changing and nuanced spectrum.
Like many drag shows, Sex Sex Men Men seems to take parody as a starting point. The charismatic Cesar Jentley (Kit Griffiths) opens the show dressed in no less than a top hat and tail coat, simultaneously echoing both Ascot and cabaret. But with all good parody, there is an element of sincerity and Temi Wilkey’s Drag King Cole a lip-syncing dance that is heart-felt as well as hilarious. Victor Victorious’ (Victoria Aubrey) solo dance and strip is also nothing short of incredible.
From there, the show gets more serious and the comedy is always rooted in awareness that discussing gender also means discussing persecution, prejudice and abuse. In fact, the show does delve into the darkness of sexual abuse but there are plenty of warnings and opportunities for the audience members to leave. There are also some very explicit scenes and the audience, again, is forewarned. The show does not rely on shock value but on a desire to create an offering of performances that are about sex in all its roughness, gentleness, pleasure and pain.
What also stands out is that the show is interspersed with testimonies written by men on online forums. The stories range from confessions, confusing gay encounters to asking for advice about toxic masculine friendships. In these moments, it becomes clear that Pecs are opening the floor to more varied and frank discussions about relationships and gender. But there is a sadness in the disconnectedness of this as the stories have been put out into the void of the internet and are therefore both intensely personal and completely anonymous.
By the end, the show is joyous and silly. The set (Jasmine Swan), a backdrop of vibrant, glittery and soft fabrics imitates this playful atmosphere. The show is bold. There are some great ensemble dance numbers, there is nudity, food play, and a melancholic undressing scene to the music of Anthony and the Johnsons (which made this reviewer cry). Pecs have put gender on stage to remind us that it is a performance; a piece which we should all take seriously and have some serious fun with.
“‘Terminal 3’ is a triumph, eerie and tender, utterly human even at its most abstracted points”
Lars Norén is celebrated by many as Sweden’s greatest living writer, and the Print Room at the Coronet stages a double bill of his two shorter plays, ‘Act’ and ‘Terminal 3’, translated by Marita Lindholm Gochman.
‘Act’ is about the relationship between State and terrorist. Originally set in 1970s post-war Germany, the play is based around the incarceration of Ulrike Meinhof, but director Anthony Neilson has removed these references, and instead places the play in a dystopian future America, following a second civil war, complete with a Texan physician brilliantly embodied by the enigmatic Barnaby Power. Whilst this is a good idea in practice, the only reference we have for this is visual, and the reality of this is a lack of clarity that leaves the audience in a continual and unresolved quest for context. A competently done piece fuelled by Power’s performance in particular, it has promise, but due to its lack of clear placement, it seems to float, making the moments of discomfort easier to disengage with, and the overall impact severely lessened.
‘Terminal 3’ is a triumph, eerie and tender, utterly human even at its most abstracted points. Fog steams out over the audience, drowning us momentarily. Two couples wait. She is waiting to give birth, He at her side, whether she wants him there or not. Woman and Man wait to identify a body. Birth and death are directly aligned, Prosecco and flowers are proffered against a background of sobs. All four actors excel, distinct in their characterisations but equally adept in creating a coherent whole, not a weak link among them. Moving and disturbing, but laced with a desperately dark humour, the beauty and skill of Norén’s writing shines through across both pieces, but particularly in this latter one.
The design by Laura Hopkins across both pieces is consistently fantastic. The stage of ‘Act’ is a busy one on the periphery, bulk packages of Marlborough cigarettes and Coca Cola cans, a running machine, a mattress, a camping chair made out of a faded American flag. The central stage is bare apart from a single chair, hemmed in by lights – “there’s never any darkness,” M says of her cell. ‘Terminal 3’ splits the stage in two, one corner filled with flowers, the opposite corner with candles. The stage is divided by a semi-transparent screen, that turns as the space changes. Here, Nigel Edwards’ lighting design really comes into its own, unafraid to leave us in darkness, playing with shadows, lights that throb and stutter, a truly creative design that allows the space and the atmosphere to be reinvented over and over.
Seeing the plays alongside each other creates a lovely opportunity to directly compare the works and to begin to acknowledge themes in Norén’s work and way of thinking.
This is a double bill as it should be: beautifully written, beautifully designed and fantastically performed.