Courtney Rose Brown
Joe’s script provides many a laughs throughout, often due to points of recognition from audience members and because some moments of dialogue in arguments are sharper and dig deeper than expected. I personally have a giggle when the older ladies sitting next to me chortle at snide remarks.
Transitions are smoothed over by Kerri Nicholson’s musical design, providing a simple means to flow from scene to scene. The use of instrumental versions of pop songs incorporates dance into the transitions boosting the energy, whilst reinforcing a youthful party atmosphere. This also gives each interaction time to sit with the audience, meaning each scene can be mulled over before quickly jumping into the next one.
The staging is in triverse, which suits the action as the cast members remain on stage during the hour long show. When performers are not the focus they act as scene dressing to uphold Matt Loveranes’ beautiful set design. Loveranes’ design uses staple pieces to build each scene, making each new setting site specific and clear. This leads to performers frequently standing in as walls holding objects and being stagehands in encounters. This works as often scenes have nods to cliches in rom coms - a picnic on a blanket, a raging party with beer crates and bunting. My favourite set design is the suitcases with lights surrounding the outside of them to create a mirror, as performers became wardrobes.
The set design and lighting design (Aisha Atherton) were highly complementary, lights were incorporated into every scene change. The use of hand held lamps create truly beautiful moments at the beginning with shadows creating a sense of mystery with the first encounter and in the middle of the play, shining directly onto Natalie’s (Rattenbury) and James’ (Pol) faces. The distance between the two characters creates a sense of intimacy that is uncomfortable, especially with the topic of consent being the focus as Rattenbury displays raw vulnerability, contrasted against James’ (Pol) orgasm. The brief blackouts, accompanied with bassy tunes and loud moans, quickly present sex scenes. The adjusting of clothing afterwards helps to support the action.
Lisa (Robson) the ‘resident lesbian’ gives a gutsy and feisty performance. However, with seven teenagers in this script sexuality could have been explored more, with no homosexual relationship between men and Lisa being the token ‘queer’ character.
The message of the show is unclear to me as the desire to have sex is the leading plot force, but none of the engagements end well. Often with characters mentioning that because there is no love, or love is a throw away term between them, it then becomes meaningless and less enjoyable leaving practically everyone hurt because of it. The super hypersexualised teenagers have many points of accuracy with interactions as they seemed unsure of what they really want. However, in my opinion it would have been interesting to contrast this with perhaps an asexual character and explore those conversations. I feel like the script needs points of softness and even a positive sexual experience as the structure seemed to be sex, regret, sex, regret, repeat.
Lisa’s talk with Natalie about consent is quickly brushed over as Natalie’s naievity means she doesn’t understand the extent of her situation. The women quickly fall into labels that others have given them, some which they don themselves, but this often does not end in moments of empowerment e.g. with the titles of slut, virgin, bitch and lesbian. They are placed within these categories whereas the male characters, although insults are thrown at them, are not specifically placed into any boxes. This could have been balanced out with more of a commentary on actions. Character interactions although present complexities, could be more fleshed out as the redeeming qualities of characters are hard to find when their worst sides are only presented. The ending is sweet with a surprising turn, more moments of this nature could have been incorporated throughout.
Like Sex is a fun, energetic and engaging performance, with solid performances from the cast as they each explore their own responses to their sexual encounters. To get a taste of teenage years Like Sex offers up slices of life and it is definitely worth seeing. On at BATS Theatre, in the dome at 8pm until the 30th of July. For more information about the Young and Hungry Festival or to book visit the BATS website here <bats.co.nz>.