We enter the actual performance space blindfolded. There is a beautiful naughtiness to this introduction,more than a few of us giggle nervously as we make our way inside. Solo performer Sabrina Martin gently guides us into our seats, murmuring sweet innuendos in our ears (just a little to left...down a bit...perfect.)This sets up a lovely connection with Martin which feels key in making the audience feel comfortable - necessary when considering the potential touchiness of sexual content coupled with the extreme intimacy of the venue (a small hotel room). Our proximity to both Martin and our fellow audience members allows us to feel strongly connected as an audience, as we can’t help but exchange nervous eye contact with people from across the bed Martin performs on. The show doesn’t shy away from pushing this connection, and one of my favourite moments from the show came when, one by one, audience members were pulled onto the bed with Martin. At first we think it’s a moment of audience interaction granted to only a few, however that illusion is quickly shattered as we realise all sixteen of us are hopping on too.
For the next hour, the show feels more like a game than a performance. Martin is the perfect performer for this. Her natural charm, warmth and confidence turns what could be an awkward hour of audience wrangling into play. The games are simple and familiar - for instance, being pulled into a pillow fight. We are never told directly what is it Martin wants us to do, but she gives us the time and space we need to figure it out, suggesting a confidence in herself and the work that puts us at ease. In both sex and interactive theatre, trust is paramount, and this work hinges on Martin being able to build that trust - luckily, a task which she amply succeeds at.
Once the trust is established, Martin is able to lead us around the room to explore different aspects of sex and pleasure. With each new topic, we are given different roles - sometimes we are represent her confidantes, sometimes friends, sometimes lovers. We are constantly led into the unknown, both in terms of physical location and content. Whether examining first times, the exploration of sexual identity, or the annoyances of urinary tract infections, the element of surprise and danger of the unknown feeds the energy of the room. In the second half, the transitions lose a touch of the gentleness that characterised the beginning of the show and the jump between segments gets somewhat clunky.
When it comes to discussing sex, how far we feel comfortable going is never going to be a universal threshold and, as May Contain Sex Scenes functions best when the audience gives, it’s useful being aware of your own boundaries before you watch it. If, like me, you are pretty gung-ho about celebrating sexual pleasure, the actual content of the show will be surpassed by the delight at how the content is communicated. By making us active participants in the work, Martin keeps us on our toes. The excitement I’m feeling is less about sex and more about intimacy, and particularly about the similarities between intimate encounters and an intimate theatre show. The hour is awash with a nervous energy about revealing. How much of ourselves are we going to have to give away? What will the people around me think? Will I do something wrong? These are the tensions bubbling under the surface, and thanks to the deft handling of their audience, we can enjoy riding out the nerves instead of being afraid of them.
May Contain Sex Scenes is on for the following dates:
Sun 19th Feb
Fri 24th, Sat 25th, Sun 26th Feb
Fri 3rd and Sat 4th March
Beginning at 7.30 pm.
The venue is Ohtel Wellington:
Tickets can be booked via: