Edinburgh Fringe 2013
"Come see the sex talk your parents definitely didn’t want to have with you. A fun-filled romp through the science of sex! Can a man really distance ejaculate? How does a male hedgehog mount his mate without getting a little prick … (pun maybe intended)… Will there be better orgasms at the end of our measuring tape? Would you ‘do it’ for science? Come peek into our bedrooms and satisfy your hankerings at Bonk! the show inspired by Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Sex and Science by best-selling author Mary Roach."
I haven’t been on a 3rd date in more than a decade. If I’m honest I not planning to go on another. But I am fascinated by the rituals and ribaldry which accompany those first moments when folk start making the auld beastie with two backs. I’m not alone. Audiences love a bit of what-you-fancy-does-you-good on stage. If you ever happen to be chatting with Fringe supremo Sir Timothy O’Shea in the Abattoir lounge behind Underbelly, chances are he will eventually get to wondering aloud why so much of his time is spent nodding politely and non-committally at outraged people who seem intent on attending, and being righteously offended by, shows like Bonk!
Bonk! takes its inspiration from the bestseller of the same name by American popular science author Mary Roach (her other books include Stiff, which is about dead bodies; Spook, the afterlife and Gulp focused on the human gastrointestinal tract). The team behind the production share Roach’s no-holes-barred (a surprisingly apt expression) approach to icky stuff that makes us blush – and yes I am closer to David Mitchell’s comic persona than Jay Rayner’s mum on the comfortable-about-talking-about-sex spectrum.
The format takes the form of a closely packed hour of sketches cleverly interwoven (a bad phrase choice which makes me sad because I found out today just how much rug-munchers have been eating out my grandmother’s Khorassan – fecking moths). The overall narrative arc centres on Cat (played by Anh Chu), a sex researcher and her husband (Adam Courting) struggling with the sex-life/work balance in a world dominated by TV sexperts Sally and Eric (Isobel Marmion & James Wordsworth respectively). The themes range from what impacts on the taste of a chap’s deposit to the optimal distances between key locations on the roadmap to the earth moving for her.
The staging is minimal and there is even less by the end. They might be kinky in Sweden but Ikea desks were not built to stand that much strain. The lighting and sound cues are efficient. theSpace at Jury’s Inn is certainly one of the grungier venues this Fringe – given the late hour it’s a shame a more interesting stage and seating plan couldn’t have been worked out. The action feels constrained rather than fluid in the space.
The performances are strong and likeable with several characters really shining through. The actors seem to be vying with one another to be cool with a demanding and probing script. Jessica McKerlie reaches the standards set her fellow Aussie, Russell Crowe, in regard to antipodean mastery of British regional accents which distracts from her obvious power to enliven and sustain the occasionally waning momentum.
Bonk! is obviously not a show you’re going to see with any but the most open-minded of senior clergy. If you’re on a hen party, see this show! If you’re on a stag party, see this show (there’ll be hen parties there)! If you want to see well-performed, pacy, character-filled sketch comedy which isn’t frightened to talk frankly about naughty stuff then see this show. Just remember not to shake the lads’ hands on the way out. Not before they’ve had time to wash.