‘Sex Cells’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by May 15, 2017

‘Sex Cells’ is a bitter sweet, semi-autobiographical, ADULT comedy by playwright Anna Longaretti. Anna Longaretti is a hairdresser for her husband’s photoshoot clients. Feeling a little under-stimulated, Anna decided to try her hand at writing, and ‘Sex Cells’ is a revelation of her resultant feelings after her daughter was born.

Written in 2013, this 105-minute adult play is saucy but not crude or offensive. This fun evening is being presented by Harbour Theatre, at the Camelot Theatre, 16 Lochee Street, in Mosman Park every evening at the slightly earlier time of 7.30 pm – except Tuesday – until Saturday 21st May. There is a matinée at 2.00 pm on Sunday 14th May and another on the 21st.

May I suggest that with folding money becoming scarce, the Group should look into credit card payments? Luckily, I had just enough money with me. Whilst on the topic of tickets, I still hear of patrons arriving at various theatres in the area only to find a full house, because there are no bookings or warnings on line. This is a wonderfully friendly and welcoming theatre group, but unfortunately, for all of us, the internet is starting to rule everything.

 

The scene is the Present Day, in the sales offices of ‘Aphrodite’, a busy sex toy manufacturer.

The set comprises four cubicles positioned along the back of the stage. In each cubicle is a small desk with a computer, telephone / headphones, and operator’s chair. On one side of the stage is a kitchen area; on the other is the supervisor’s office filled with piles of stock boxes. Centre stage the lunch area with table and chairs.

Set design was by Rob Tagliaferri and the director, who along with Brian Mahoney, Alan Morris, Phil Redding, Kit Leake and Julie MacKay constructed the scenery. Rob Tagliaferri, who prudently ‘picked out’ each of the telephonists as they took their orders, operated the complex lighting design. The soundscape, with one or two unusual sound effects was carefully assembled and operated by Vanessa Gudgeon.

 

        The lights rise to show us the team in full flow, advising clients as to what size they should buy. Young and beautiful Tiffany (Rachel Bartlett) purrs down the phone, giving advice from her own extensive personal – but loveless – experience. In the next cubicle is middle-aged, caring mother of five, Janice (Mandy Orr), who is also giving personal recommendations, although it is doubtful if she has every tried a single toy. As the banter flows, even 65 years-old, frumpy Lily (Katherine English) who has a terrible home life manages a smile and joke, as she comments to a customer on the toy she tried last night. She is easily the most successful saleswoman.

        In the last booth is their French sales representative, Silvie (Grace Hitchin), a smart 39 years old with a sex hormone problem, who spends half her time shouting or depressed.

        The supervisor is a mild, inadequate Mummy’s boy, Mr Causeway (Paul Cook). Mr C is a boring, middle-aged man who has probably never had a partner, and who has trouble even conversing with his staff.

 

        This is a very poignant and well-observed look at being a parent, as seen through the eyes of this very close group of company’s workers.

Director Jo Sterkenburg has chosen a play with a good mix of hilarity and powerful passions. Although the cast has plenty of very funny lines to deliver, it was essential to the story that each character credibly displayed the depth of the comradery, and the strong support amongst the girls when their love lives go wrong. The cast worked very well, the chemistry was genuine and the ‘family’ atmosphere convincing.

There are several scenes, most of which are a couple of months apart, which without a programme I could have assumed to be a day or two apart. Perhaps a couple of references in the script – such as ‘last month’, or ‘now that autumn is here’ – would help confirm the season. The costume changes were exceptionally quick, but the breaks between scenes still seemed a little long. Perhaps simply slipping a dress over an outfit could speed up these gaps, as the pace can start to drop off.

Grace, who has been nominated for acting awards in the past, gives another powerful performance as a woman, devastated by her condition and complicated emotions. On the other hand, Katherine was wonderful as the older woman, who just seemed to glide through life, whilst hiding her years of turmoil.

As mentioned earlier, there is a tremendous mixture of laugh aloud humour, and tragically sad moments in this fresh play. Another success for The Harbour Theatre.