Sex emerging as theme running through 2010 Edinburgh Fringe theatre
Steve Cramer's Festival blog
This article is from 2010.
My first significant encounter this Fringe, a week ago as I write, occurred at the door of the Traverse theatre with Jane Ellis, my esteemed fellow hack and wife of another much beloved colleague, Mark Fisher. As I made to enter the building, she seized my arm, as if to hold herself upright, and with an uncharacteristically jaded, Ancient Mariner look in her eye commented: "There’s been a lot of sex, most of it ugly and distasteful, I’ve had as much as I can take". I was about to suggest that perhaps she and the Fisherator should have gone to the theatre instead, when I realised that’s precisely where they’d been.
And right the admirable Ellis proves to have been. Let me give you a brief summary: Over the last few days I’ve seen ugly revelations about kiddie porn (The Author), a woman inclined to incest, but deciding instead to indulge a bizarre colonialist sexual fantasy with a young black student (The Girl in the Yellow Dress), and an errant husband engaging in alarmingly violent BDSM activities with his secretary (While You Lie) at the Traverse alone. The next time I see Trav artistic director Dominic (I’ve taken to calling him 'dirty Dom') Hill, remind me to slip some bromide into his tea. A healthy trip into the country air for Threshold brought only the tale of an expectant bride finding herself the object of a series of pagan rites, culminating in her being thrown into a river and brutally raped by her stepson.
All this made Wednesday, the story of a disturbed felon who binds a woman to a bed and his former cellmate to a pipe at her feet in order to join them in re-enacting a past sexual assault, pretty tame. After a lot of trysting with fairytale-symbolic wolf masks and schoolgirl uniforms, the final revelation that the villain is only threatening the woman’s rape to revisit his gay relationship with his fellow convict renders this into a tender story of the bipolar bi-curious, compared to the other kinky capers I’ve witnessed.
Still, a lot of this work was of fine quality, with The Author perhaps just pipped at the post by DC Jackson’s more orthodox exploration of (inevitably, it being the Trav) sex amongst single thirtysomethings My Romantic History as my highlight of the Fringe.
But is all this focus on unorthodox sex a way of avoiding more important conversations? I can’t help but think it is, but I’ll expand on that in a later blog.