Dublin Theatre Festival 2022: Good Sex
Good Sex by Dead Centre with Emilie Pine. Graphic Design Jason Booher.
Glancing through the programme for Dead Centre with Emilie Pine's co-creation Good Sex, director Ben Kidd sounds like he's trying to sell ice to the Inuits. Emotional labour it's called. Conveying emotion while suppressing your own emotions. Actors do it, to do in public what we do in private. Like duh! Everyone does it. "I'm in no mood for… hello, great to see you." "I'm so excited to be working with these amazing people, each one of them a dream." It's similar to Kidd's claim we like to watch people onstage do what we do in our everyday lives. Usually we like watching people do what we can't do in our everyday lives, what we fantasise about doing. Like much of the arguments surrounding Good Sex, it all sounds a little one sided, often reductive. Like political spin.
All of which establishes a flimsy pretext for beginning proceedings with an Intimacy Coach. A smarmy Liv O'Donoghue, looking like a quietly judgmental, mindfulness coach whose corporate gigs dried up. With the assistance of two unprepared actors each night, O'Donoghue sets about showing us the vital importance of what Intimacy Coaches do. Except most of what they do seems to have taken place before the actors took to the stage, Thursday night being an impressive Aoibheann McCann and Rory Nolan. Alexandra Conlon and Barry McKiernan, situated in a radio booth behind glass, feed them their lines into ear pieces. A modest tale about two ex's wanting to have sex, but trying not to. In which O'Donoghue's role is not so much assisting the director as replacing them, the director being nowhere in sight.
If you haven't guessed it yet, it's all a little tongue in cheek. Touching on serious things and trying to smuggle in some serious laughter. All the while making voyeurs of us all; no-one an innocent bystander. Distance, like immersion, is an illusion. The radio booth highlighting the artificial disconnect between head and body. A couple of busy, if mouthy stage hands, who almost steal the show, erect Aedín Cosgrove's set around McCann and Nolan, heightening meta-theatricality and an awareness of what we project onto what we see. Meanwhile, moments of intimacy are fashioned with a lack of input from the actors, the intimacy coach reducing them to puppetry rather than performance. You might think that'll never work, till Conlon and McKiernan raze the stage with one that was made earlier. You're gonna wanna grab your popcorn for that one. Throughout, story serves not just as a set up for sex, but as context for its cum stained, vomit soaked experiences. Being the source of where true intimacy lies, which is later played out in the body. Serving as a reminder that actors don't make it, they fake it till they make it. And they need to be safe in how they go about doing that.
Always the line between audience and actor, actor and character, spectator and voyeur, is played with, usually with a wild, frenetic energy. The orgy scene being a case in point. Yet given its jungle cachopony of orgasmic delights it might well turn you off, unless sex with a seagull rocks your world. With Good Sex, sex is story, sex is a part of intimacy. Mostly, Good Sex is wild, electric fun. Of course, Good Sex's primary interrogation isn’t sex or intimacy, it’s our relationship to theatre. O'Donoghue might claim 'I’m invisible, don’t mind me, I’ll try not get in the way.' All lies. She wants to show us how intimacy is done, even if we're not entirely sure she can. Smart, unpredictable, and wickedly good fun, Good Sex plays safely with what's theatrically possible, delivering an extraordinarily entertaining experience while doing so.
Good Sex, by Dead Centre with Emilie Pine, runs as part of Dublin Theatre Festival 2022 at The Samuel Beckett Theatre till October 2.
For more information visit Dublin Theatre Festival 2022