Brighton Fringe 2017
One parent refuses to talk about sex. The other parent buys their child gay porn DVDs. Revisiting the explicit films his dad bought him at fourteen, Harry Clayton-Wright explores the ways in which we learn about sex and how that shapes us later in life.
A show with ‘Sex’ in the title is almost guaranteed to sell double the number of tickets. Add in some teenage cottaging and put it in the Marlborough Theatre and you are in the running for a sell-out, as indeed Harry Clayton-Wright’s piece was. I am also happy to say that this success was deserved, as Sex Education is more than just a name, and was in fact a truly filthy, very funny and poignant piece of theatre.
The tone is set early on with the opening of the show being a porn montage of Harry sucking cocks, fingering himself and posing in any number of seductive and silly poses. This was clearly going to be a no-holds-barred performance where we could expect to see a lot more than we bargained for.
However, we also heard a lot more than we expected to, and it wasn’t all rude stuff. Yes the show was sexually shocking at the start (and end!), but it was also very raw and honest, and this is what stood out to me. Harry is a brave performer, who seems unafraid to reveal his deepest secrets to a room full of strangers; something that I hope provides him with some sort of catharsis.
The premise of the show is Harry looking back on how he learnt about sex from his parents, and how this has impacted on himself as a sexual being now. (One who can apparently manage both the admin and sexual stamina of three separate Grindr meet-ups in one morning!) To investigate this history, he interviewed his mum about her marriage, his conception and what she thought she taught him about sex. It is an extraordinary and shocking story, which Harry reflects on after the excerpts.
It is really Harry’s relationship with his mum that is at the heart of the show. She has not had the easiest of lives, and is shown to be the most incredible, loving and supportive of people. The final part of the interview that you see on screen is moving and poignant, and it is life-affirming to see a committed Christian woman giving her full love and support to a gay son who spends his life dancing around nude onstage and putting cucumbers up his bottom.
Sex Education manages to get the balance right between comedy, autobiography and something more serious (with some excellent lip-syncing thrown in for good measure). Harry is a performer that you want to watch, and he is an engaging presence onstage. The show is a celebration of sex and casual hook-ups, whilst acknowledging some of the risks and emptiness that comes with it. Highly Recommended.