Alternative Sex Education

Fri 8th – Sun 10th June 2012

reviews

Thomas Stell

at 02:07 on 9th Jun 2012

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This queer feminist burlesque show derives from one of those ideas in comedy out of which, given the right material, a properly skilled cast and enough fine polishing, a great act could have grown. It is sad then that the ensemble simply did not have enough really good material, or the technical skill and the precision which might have come from a little more thought or rehearsal, to let this happen.

Beginning with a jocular condemnation of twenty-first century misogyny and homophobia set to the tune of Bernstein’s “America”, the cast lead us through song and dance numbers, monologues and brief sketches in a flurry of anecdotes and lessons about the queer world. There are moments which are very funny, and there is a transsexual comic worthy of particular note. She gives a touching account of the prejudice she faces, and later will tell of her first discovery of the sexual act, provoking some of the most genuine laughs of the night with a reading of erotic scenes interpolated into “Duncton Wood”. Also outstanding is the well-deserved parody Gok Wan’s particular brand of fashion advice receives – it is the first time I have come across a set of comedians who show quite how ridiculous his making ungainly women look “acceptable” is. Cameron and Nick Clegg are perhaps just as deserving of satire, but were significantly easier targets.

The rest of the show however is the victim of the company’s lack of technique. The fault was not really the timing, though that could have been sharper, more that the musical sections needed better singers. The lyrics, often rather well written, were not funny enough to carry those acts by themselves. Choreography was minimal, and where dance was involved it was not usually a success – the sequence based on “Bad Romance” really wasn’t brilliant.

But the collective’s greatest mistake is in their attempt to educate us. While all is in a comedic spirit, by the time we reach the evening’s end we have heard too much about queer identity not to realise we have been preached at. No doubt the world ought to be a more tolerant place, but we would do well to remember that sexual variance and queerness are not the same. It is quite possible to partake in homosexual intercourse, exclusively or otherwise, and not consider oneself queer, or indeed adopt the rather vulgar trappings of “queerdom”. I know, as I am sure do you, several homosexuals of both sexes who could not possibly be fitted into this category. Many, indeed, of the historical figures adopted for this clique would have found the idea completely alien – certainly Byron, Oscar Wilde and Catullus would have. This, then, is the product of an age which rather unhealthily encourages us to see sexual activity as something that defines one, rather than just an act one engages in, as it was seen by the pederastic Greeks Lashings are so keen to draw to our attention.

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