Clown Sex, 2 Northdown – Review

Sex. There are many different types and varieties. Vanilla. Orgasmic. Disappointing. Absolute filth. Having ‘it’ or not having ‘it’ is a constant subject in magazines and regardless of how much one has, you can never have enough *good* sex. Inspired by this topic, Natasha Sutton Williams performs three complementary plays that examine sex in all its messy glory. But like all insightful narratives, they work on a number of levels and sex actually pertains to something deeper…

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Williams as ‘Lucy’

The evening opens with Dead Lucy, a funny and candid examination of the search for fulfilment. Lucy hates her job as a school teacher at a primary school. Every day, she goes the same routines: ‘hair removal’, almost getting run over while cycling to/from school and daydreaming. It’s been quite some time since Lucy’s has had some ‘proper’ sex and it’s this thought – along with sex diagrams she looked at first thing in the morning – that plays heavily on her mind. As with many people, Friday night can’t come soon enough, so she can go drinking with her friends. Who knows? She may get lucky…

Lucy’s predicament is very familiar and on one level, something men and women can readily identify with. A large part of the play’s charm lies in Lucy’s ‘interior life’ – her awareness that her present circumstances isn’t satisfying. Apart from being pleasurable in its own right, a fulfilling sex life would make up for a great many things that Lucy’s unhappy with. But as that’s not on the cards, in Lucy’s mind ‘it’ becomes all-important and preoccupies her mind when she’s at school. In Williams’ play, the devil is in the detail, and even when the topic switches to ‘innocuous’ subjects such as food or P.E., nothing is ever ‘wasted’ as the observations have significance later.

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Williams as ‘JJ’

Opening to the strains of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, the avant garde choice of music is suitably apt for Prone To Mischief. The play begins with ‘JJ’ having sex. Except that ‘JJ’ has already taken some drugs, so her perception of what’s happening is distorted and ever-changing. From this bewildering beginning, we follow her to university where ‘officially’ she’s enlisted as a music student.

If ‘JJ’s only her ‘true self’ some of the time, Georgia’s presence ensures it’s a permanent state of affairs, with numerous female students sleeping over in their flat. But nothing lasts forever, so while Georgia manages to do a U-turn and obtain recognition for her musicianship, tough choices lie ahead for ‘JJ’ – including looking for somewhere else to live.

pronetomischief3Sex for ‘JJ’ has never been about ‘making love’, but the sort ‘JJ’ finds herself having post-Georgia leads to a dark place. Ultimately, she finds herself in a similar position to ‘Lauren’ in Bret Easton Ellis’ The Rules of Attraction – unable to articulate “No” and finding the ‘enjoyment’ one-sided… In contrast, after going ‘straight’, sex with Victoria opens her eyes to intimacy in a relationship and all the ‘mundane’ things that people do together take on new meaning…

Asides from the aforementioned Bret Easton Ellis, Williams draws upon the spirit of Charles Bukowski and Henry Miller in the way JJ talks about all aspects of her life. No ‘moralising’, coyness or other ‘fig leaves’ to hide behind, ‘JJ’ speaks matter-of-factly about her spectrum of experiences, without judgment. JJ’s growth as a human being by the end is also subtly alluded to by the choice of music in the background – The Rite of Spring replaced with classicial music of a more harmonious nature.

Following on from Prone To Mischief, one might think that sex cannot be talked about in a more candid or provocative fashion, but Clown Sex is certainly up to the challenge. Having recently joined an ‘alternative’ circus, Gary enquires about where the ‘action’ is. This leads him to ‘Cuckoo’ – a clown of the female persuasion who is known by all. An ‘acquired’ taste for discerning clientele ‘Cuckoo’ opens the doors to yearnings that were hitherto unknown…

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Williams’ ‘Gary’ finds he has a taste for coulrophilia… / Photos © Jack Walker

The way ‘Cuckoo’ is described, she’s not what society would class as ‘beautiful’ or obviously sexually active. Yet ‘Cuckoo’ defies the labels of ‘the norm’ and Gary makes no distinction between ladies who are ‘larger’. In fact, for him it is a bonus. In the real world ‘Cuckoo’ would be an ‘undateable’, but away from prying eyes, she ‘blossoms’…

There are so many things Williams’ draws upon in the three plays, one is spoiled for choice in terms of which threads to home in on. There are, however, a couple of things that links all three. Firstly, one’s sexual tastes are likely to change over time, so being free to safely explore one’s sexual identity is key to one’s well-being.

Secondly, sex itself doesn’t guarantee intimacy – in fact in some cases it can create a distance between people. But messier than the physical act itself are the emotions it engenders – often unexpected and intense, which if one wants ‘strings-free sex’, complicates things. One can certainly do without it, but to live without intimacy – to never feel a connection with people – is the very definition of being alone.

© Michael Davis 2018

Four-and-a-half stars

Clown Sex ran at 2 Northdown on 19th and 20th November.

 

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