[Written by Isabelle Hunt-Deol (she/her)]
[Image Credits: Photograph of the cast of The (very brief) History of Sex. Photo provided by Beth Leishman (she/her) with GUM edits]
Content warning: Contains reference to sex
Student Theatre at Glasgow (STAG) hosts a New Works festival every semester. It consists of three nights of new writing, with one 20-minute piece and one 50-minute piece. A team of judges select one of the 50-minute pieces for STAG to take to the Fringe. This is the festival that I had a pleasure to see, as I witnessed night 2, featuring Gerascophobia by Iain Shearer, and the longer piece, The (very brief) History of Sex by Gregor Weir and Beth Leishman. Let’s talk about sex …
An evening full of comedy and charisma as four talented actors took to the stage to discuss all things sex related. The four actors in The (very brief) History of Sex (Julia Hegele, Annie Bird, Bailey Camack and Pat Nehls) each became a significant persona, expressing their own acting style yet tweaking it to fit the several different characters they had to embody during their performance.
A cardboard penis was propped at the front of the stage to show a timeline of sex throughout the ages from the 1920s to present day. With a swift change of set and costume the actors managed to display each different era in a short time slot. The script was cleverly written and directed by GUM’s own science editor Beth Leishman, and theatre student Gregor Weir. It was informative, witty and well summarised into a 50-minute time slot. Starting 50,000 years ago, the piece begins with two species: a bonobo and homo erectus. They interact with one another and flirt with the audience. Each actor switched roles throughout the performance so everyone had an equal chance at narrating, character acting and speaking. I thought this was really refreshing as sometimes you only get to see the talent of the protagonist in theatre.
Next up was the Egyptian era, this cleverly depicted the story of Alexandria visiting a sex clinic as she was worried that her husband was having an affair with a crocodile (true story from the Egyptian times). During her trip she also discovered the various forms of contraception from the Egyptian era. The Greek era consisted of the gods, Zeus the king of the gods, Aphrodite the goddess of love and pleasure, Hermes the god of fertility, and Artemis the goddess of hunting and the wilderness who was regarded as a “son” to her father Zeus since she did not show classically womanly attributes. A scenario of a Grecian party informed the audience of the adulterous sexual age in Greek mythology. The 21st century world of sex was parodied through dating apps using these characters. Each actor set up an account of their Greek gods/goddess’ Tinder, Bumble and Grindr profile to see what responses were given from the general public.
Toward the end of the performance, Julia jumped back on stage to make a speech about how she’d been performing about sex but hadn’t actually had sex herself. I thought this was important to mention since there is a huge stigma and pressure around sex and it can be seen as “uncool” or not normal to not have sex. However, in this extra scene she suggested how it is also fine not to have sex, or to be asexual.
A fun scene that consisted of a parody of songs summarising the very best hits of sex was also packed with information. A plastic baby was held up as the actors sang Baby by Justin Bieber to discuss contraception. Rihanna’s S & M expressed kinks and fetishes (“I like it like it come on”).
Then the medley ended with Salt n’ Pepper’s Let’s talk about sex. There was also an important reference to the LGBTQ+ community as Pat sang about the importance of pride and the huge progressive development in our current society: “I’m coming out, I want the world to know, got to let it show, I’m coming out.”
This medley covered all the important aspects of sexuality, sexual needs and sex perspectives from all genders. It also included the importance AND unimportance of sex with a humorous twist. The audience were left with a smile on their face and an informative insight into the (very brief) history of sex!