Post Sex Spagbol is a piece that, before you walk into the theatre, wants you to believe it’s a comedy about sex. What actually lies underneath is something surprisingly more deep, impressively rich, yet something that still bowls you over with its naughty, cheeky sense of humour. The piece naturally slots into a creative generation that is beginning to question the value of sex and health education in our schools – with TV pieces like Sex Education among the piece’s evident influences – but Post Sex Spagbol is still something that intriguingly manages to stand out. It covers a surprising amount of the broad subject matter it sets out upon, but without compromising depth and insight. Most importantly, it marks out Thistle & Rose Theatre as a troupe to watch from here on out.
Krissy, our central character, is barely herself out the other side of her own angst-riddled puberty before she is thrust into a classroom to teach young girls how to handle their own oncoming storm of hormones, bodily changes, and their first time encountering sex. When Krissy goes for an adult sleepover with a childhood friend, the pair discuss whether their lives have already been mapped out for them, leading them to discuss what would happen if Krissy decided to intentionally give bad sex advice to the kids she’s teaching. It isn’t long before chaos ensues, with Krissy telling the kids that the ‘Pull-Out Method’ is the safest way to ensure you don’t get pregnant, and that washing your genitals with Mint Shower Gel is a good idea. The results are hilarious, and explore the interplay between what we’re taught, and what we’re bound to learn anyway.
It isn’t long before Krissy is promoted to School Counsellor, and her nihilistic antics extend to breaking into one child’s Mum’s Email account and suggesting that another bunks an afternoon of education for a date with a boy from another school. Krissy’s Dad, also the School’s Principal, soon learns of her transgressions, as the inevitable happens and Krissy’s anarchic suggestions come back to bite her. While all of this is happening, we are treated to a number of subplots. Krissy recounts stories of a strained relationship with her Mother, who attempted to live vicariously in youth through Krissy. We also see Krissy break-up with her long-term boyfriend, Tom, and jump wholeheartedly into a life of liberated sexual hijinks. But for how long?
It is in these messy, complicated and awkward strands of story that we extract the absolute best out of this show. While the central story of Krissy as a Sex-Ed teacher is fun to watch, and in many cases laugh-a-minute, the show truly unlocks something special when it is left to its own devices exploring the many spaghetti noodles that make up Krissy’s Spagbol of a life. You may have mentioned I up until now have avoided mentioning who plays Krissy, given it may surprise you that in this 3-hander, all 3 of the actors swap in and out of the role. This is a fantastic device, as they each fully adopt the mannerisms which make up Krissy, our central way-in to the narrative. It also allows for brilliant moments of self-reflection, as the actors swap out of the Krissy role they stand back and stare at her making terrible decisions.
The show’s philosophy, and overall message, is one about the link between sex, objectification and human connection. Connection really is at the core here, as Krissy seeks above all else to be connected to someone, in whatever form that takes. Finding little meaning in meaningless flings, she finds herself drawn back to a connection with Tom, and seeks to reconcile the difficult relationship with her Mother. In adopting her nihilistic outlook, she believes that the universe has everything laid out for her, so seeks to cause as much chaos as she can in the sex lives of others. In truth, the universe rebuffs her attempts to lose all meaning, forcing her to look for it in the places she least expects. In the end, Post Sex Spagbol comes to consider how sex, and the want to be ‘wanted’, situates us in the present moment. Against a backdrop of a million others like us and unlike us, to make connection is above all else the best form of self-gratification.
The performances in the piece are fully inhabited by the actors on stage. Katie Bignell spends much of her time in role as Krissy, and perhaps delivers her the most believably. The myriad of characters which surround Krissy are played by the three in cycle. Signe Ebbesen is fantastic in adopting the mannerisms of Tom, the late-teens boyfriend. Her shoulders slumped and accent entirely un-haught, it is one of the more memorable and comedic characters in the piece. Georgia Wilson shines in her ability to adopt any role, and every accent, showing range from the sensitivity in performing as Krissy’s Mother to the downright hysterical posh-boy that Krissy hooks up with. It’s a treat to watch them swap and switch, with touch and contact very much always at the heart of these switches, linking every small detail back to the show’s core philosophy.
The show is exceptionally and continually detailed, which leads you to focus on a lot of what is happening a lot of the time. A few stumbles and mishaps here and there are expected of a review on the opening night of any show, and I don’t doubt that some tightening up will occur as the show goes on. A couple of the jokes were lost on the audience here and there, and it feels as though those little loose areas could be tightened up to guarantee excellence. The show has the chance to pick and choose its best bits without compromising the story, and a little bit of reflection on some jokes here and there might help.
The humour within the piece winds and weaves its way around the rest of the piece, interacting with the sexual content at its heart and aiming to shock and surprise with incest and dead Grandpa jokes front and centre. The comedy is never a crutch here, however, it rotates around the central tension of nihilistic release and sexual healing with ease, meaning that you’ll only be uncomfortable if hearing “It’s better to get cum in your eye because it won’t get you pregnant” is too offensive for you.
A final commendation goes to the set design – simple yet deeply effective. Three white pillars are pushed and moulded to create different spaces – beds, desks, podiums, and more. At the back, a small pink box overflows with costumes and props – from hats and scarves to condoms and oversized pencils. The stage management fits so neatly into the piece you barely even notice when the actors rearrange the set, which might have been unwiledly if poorly directed. The show is divided into a few dozen little segments designated by small pink signs which are flipped in and out – this format is neat in dividing up the show, but it feels like a more tight and pulled together method of displaying these titles might help in establishing a little more flow.
Post Sex Spagbol surprises, shocks and delights. The team are so connected to the piece, and to one another, that the comedy allows itself to reveal something far more human than you anticipate it might. While Krissy is sometimes a wild and woeful character, you’re along for the ride every step of the way. Fresh, fierce and utterly hilarious – you’ll be gasping and giggling all night long.
Recommended Drink: Post Sex Spagbol is best paired with a nice bottle of Barolo – the rosey, light initial taste is bumped up by a tarry undercurrent of filth and fun.
Catch Post Sex Spagbol in Studio at VAULT Festival until February 3rd at 18:25. Tickets are available through the VAULT Festival Box Office.