Sex Party Exposes the Cracks
“My shame dropped off my shoulders that night “
“These things can sometimes turn a bit wobbly.”
More than anything else Terry Johnson has adapted and directed successful film to stage productions. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Graduate and Rain Man. They usually were faithful to the well loved film rather than innovative stagings. The exception for me was his Hitchcock Blonde, an original play, which I think would revive well.
Is it a reflexion of our hedonist society that sex is the last sensual pleasure to be fully commercialised? Not with sex toys, or porn videos, or Ann Summers’s sexy clothing but with facilitating with those who want to have sex in public, with swingers and spouse swappers or just to watch.
Alex (Jason Merrells) and his much younger girl friend Hetty (Molly Osborne) are hosting a sex party by invitation only in their luxury open plan Islington kitchen. It is ostensibly a heterosexual party and the first couple to arrive are a grumpy Jake (John Hopkins) and a nervous, jittery Gilly (Lisa Dwan). It is Jake and Gilly’s first time and they express a wish to stay as a couple. “We’re not swappers or swingers, just curious . . . with a small c.” Next are a rich American Jeff (American actor Timothy Hutton) and his unhappy wife Magdalena (Amanda Ryan), an outspoken Russian woman. He plays poker games where his Maserati is on the table.
Tim (Will Barton) who is mixing drugs with the experience and his friend Camilla (Kelly Price) are almost the last to appear. The play takes place as it does at all good parties in the kitchen and the sitting room or the living room is the loving room where anything sexually explicit happens off stage. So, no, you are not going to see the equivalent of Sally Bowles’s original Jean Ross simulate sex on stage or, as she claimed really do it in the novel inspiring Cabaret.
The first act is full of one liners which you can laugh at if you have come to terms with each of these couples missing something in their lives which has created the need for open sex. Because what we have here is not a group of freedom loving, liberated adults but some with deep seated issues. It is this phenomenon which Terry Johnson is drilling down into. At the end of the first act we are asking whether they have tested the boundaries.
In the second act we are sure they have not. Alex has invited Lucy (Pooya Mohseni) a beautiful transwoman he met in Coco de Mer, the designer shop selling couture underwear and sex toys named after the Seychelles double coconut which takes ten years to ripen!. Jeff, inebriated, is outraged by Lucy’s presence as a pre-operative transsexual and they argue. Camilla has taken on board a politically correct stance and can educate everyone else in what they should think.
The question remains is whether anyone at the sex party has had a good time? Jilly and Hetty explore Lesbian kissing, Camilla so relaxed with everything is outraged at Tim’s action, but I think the answer is No. You will have to decide if The Sex Party is your thing or whether you’ll wait for the Menier Chocolate Factory to find plays as wonderful as Indecent and the many other superlative productions we have seen there.
The Sex Party
Written and directed by Terry Johnson
Director: Terry Johnson
Designer: Tim Shortall
Lighting Designer: Ben Ormerod
Sound Designer: John Leonard
Running Time: Two hours 20 minutes with an interval
Booking to 7th January 2023