Tuesday 17 October 2017

All The Sex I've Ever Had - Melbourne Festival review

Not many people think about 65 year-olds having an active sex life. Even Hollywood films rarely have characters of that age talking about sex, and when it does happen, it's usually emphasised for comedic value. However, in All The Sex I've Ever Had, Mammalian Diving Reflex and director Darren O'Donnell bring six people over the age of 65 together and have them share their memories from their birth right up until the present day - to a roomful of strangers.

All The Sex I've Ever Had has toured around the world and what makes this a unique experience is that it is always performed by locals to that area, so each season is going to be completely different as the stories shared are based on the performers' own life. The structure is simple enough with the six cast - Beatrix, Brenda, Lionel, Noel, Philip and Suzie - sitting behind a table, and as our 20 year-old MC and sound designer, Moses Carr announces each year through a microphone, they share with us important moments of their lives. The fact that we are able to get a real picture of who these people are through a few sentences for each year is a testament to the collaborative efforts between the creative team and the performers in threading six narratives together that are engaging and meaningful to the audience.
To speak of the adventures and tribulations shared would be to break the pledge of not gossiping about what's discussed that we take before the show begins. However, this is more than just titillating stories of sexual escapades, and while sex - and all its manifestations - plays a big part in each of these people's lives, All The Sex I've Ever Heard is an opportunity for those over 65 to be heard - really heard - and for their sex lives and sexuality to be as respected as younger generations' are.

As the cast relayed these stories, it reminded me of many of my own stories and my encounters with sex, love and everything in between. While I was born decades later, some of what is shared is actually very similar to the issues and experiences that many face today such as rape, assault, sexuality, drug addiction and death. At various time throughout the evening, as one of the cast would share an anecdote, such as their first open relationship, they would then throw the question out to the audience with the creative team behind the show questioning these people on their own experiences. In doing so, the idea of audience member and performer became blurred with some very honest responses, creating an intimate community of respect within the theatre.

After traversing 80 years of highs and lows of these people's lives, we exit to the foyer where each cast member has personal items on display that provides us with an even deeper understanding of who they are, and create a stronger bond with us. It's a fitting way to end a beautiful evening of human connection that crosses genders, sexualities and age.

All The Sex I've Ever Had was performed between 12 - 15 October 2017 as part of Melbourne Festival.

*Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 17 October 2017.

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