Prague Fringe 2018
In the underground stage of The Golden Key, Ms. Bean is beginning her Sex Ed class. The audience takes on the role of embarrassed and amused teenagers as Ms. Bean (performed by Nina Roy) ditches the school-approved textbook. Instead she teaches us by telling her sexual story from the importance of the bump and grind in middle school all the way to a fulfilling and communicative relationship after college (with a delightful episode about curiosity and a curly iron thrown in for good measure).
Knowing you are trapped in a small confined space at the mercy of the solo performer can feel an audience member with fear. The pressure is on the performer to be instantly likeable and believable. If they are not a 50 min show can feel like an eternity. The moment Ms. Bean clatters up the aisle sweetly calling for quite I am, much like any student with a new teacher, suspicious. However her earnestness is quickly infectious and I happily close my eyes when instructed and yell out “Vagina” and “Penis”. We are told to get our giggles out of the way, but they come fast and often throughout the show (did I mention the moment, in flashback, she realised her curling iron looked like a penis?!). Audience participation is not up everyone cup of tea, in Evolution of a Sexual Bean it is mild and Roy only asks that we take the role of her students to submerge ourselves into the narrative.
The Golden Key is a very teachinically limited venue so it is impressive that the audience could be drawn into the flashbacks with only four stage lights and a MacBook to help with ambiance. While not always the most subtle transition they were clear and easy to follow. Behind Ms. Bean were all of the essential teaching tools, a chair and a large flipchart to graph her journey on with an adorable metaphor of a bean plant. While a bigger or less cluttered stage may have given Roy more space to dance around in it didn’t take away from the energy of the piece.
Although a one woman show about sex in the current sexual climate may inspire feelings of unease, Roy brings a joyfulness to her script. Stories of boys who tried to pressure her into sex stood side by side with stories of how an erotic dance competition at a sleepover thought her she wasn’t the only girl at the school who felt horny. ALL. THE.TIME. A lesser writer and performer could have given into temptation and gone an “easy route” of being angry and cathartic or being naive and ignorant. Roy rejected that path, didn’t shy aware from the darker side of a woman’s sexuality but powerfully showed that it wasn’t the only side of her sexuality. By marrying the two Roy brought forward the most nobel truth about our sexual journeys: It’s complicated, that’s normal, it’s okay.