Edinburgh Fringe 2012
A Guide to Second Date Sex’ is a thoroughly honest and well observed portrayal of two likeable characters making a connection. Behind the sometimes crude comedy and personal anxieties it is really rather sweet. The slickly interspersed video and voice over of the character’s inner thoughts give the piece such a level of intimacy that the audience almost feels part of the final act.
Laura meets Ryan at his hastily-tidied flat for their second date. As their evening progresses we watch them, awkward and uncertain, stumble through a modern mating ritual.
The hilarious script is frighteningly realistic as Laura and Ryan over-analyse every move and act. With the inner thought device ‘A Guide…’ will meet with comparisons to TV’s Peep Show. I don’t mean this to be lazy journalism but instead high praise. The audience laughs and cringes in equal measure. Despite the subject matter and jokes about pubic hair, it avoids being crass. This is a show you could take your grandmother to (but you may not want to sit next to her). It is a scenario we are all familiar with; taking those first tentative steps in a relationship, desperate to impress and unsure of what is expected of you. It is refreshing to see a portrayal of crap, unsatisfying sex and funny to see the Laura and Ryan’s contrasting preconceptions of what good sex is.
Amy Butterworth and Thomas O’Connell excel throughout, and do well to make both characters likeable. After months of simulating sex together, they must know each other pretty well.
The staging was simple and effective with the bed taking centre stage, the actors symbolically tiptoeing around it. The blind above the bed doubled nicely at the screen for the video projected flashbacks and pseudo-scientific sex tips about pheromones and primal instincts. This was the only reference to the ‘Guide’ of the title, and seems out-of-place with the rest of the piece. This made me think that it had more of a role at the beginning of rehearsals, but became less prominent as the play developed.
One problem with the staging was the sight lines. From where I was sitting I was unaware that Ryan’s bedroom had an en suite bathroom, and missed a few visual gags that the rest of the audience really enjoyed.
There was a good attention to detail with the design; Ryan’s Swedish bed sheets, piled up DVDs and holey socks were familiar for to this twenty-something male. Lighting the final scene with just the bedside lamp was also a nice touch.
‘A Guide…’ defied my expectations, a late-night show at the Underbelly with sex in the title that didn’t rely on bawdy knob-jokes and in its own way was rather sweet. Sympathetic characters and an all-too-familiar scenario handled with wit and honesty. The Dirty Stop-Out mission statement is to explore the depths of human behaviour through voyeuristic comedy which they accomplish with aplomb.