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Sex Cells

by on 6 November 2019

Coitus Interruptus

Sex Cells

by Anna Longaretti

OHADS at The Coward Studio, Hampton Hill Playhouse until 9th November

Review by Eleanor Marsh

Anna Longaretti made her playwriting debut with Sex Cells in 2012. In a previous life Longaretti’s world was TV and the influence of that medium is prevalent throughout the play, which is a series of short vignettes delivered on a single set. The play could easily be an episode from a sitcom.

Set in the call centre of a sex aids business, (sex sells : a nice play on words for a play that speaks a lot about IVF – sex cells) the play is a gentle comedy with some real laugh out loud moments. It explores the hidden depths of emotion of its five characters; four women with very different issues and views and their hapless boss.

The performances are uniformly excellent. Sally Halsey’s matter of fact delivery and excellent comic timing belie the poignancy of her storyline. Her depiction of Lily, top sales person and star baker is pitch perfect. Darren McIlroy is superb as the sadly comedic Mr Causeway. It would be easy for this character to appear as a caricature, but McIlroy’s performance and debut director Joolz Connery’s sensitive direction give him real depth of character.

The remaining three characters are equally well-portrayed. And it is through these women that the complex relationships that women the world over have with sex, relationships and babies are channelled. Tiffany, played by Julie Davis is footloose and fancy free, enjoying her freedom and with no desire to “settle down”. Charlotte Pilbeam’s Sylvie is desperate to have a child, and Dionne King’s Janice is desperate to have some freedom from her large family of under 10’s. All perspectives are here in this one small office.

The play’s set is suitably minimal and functional. It could be any office anywhere, where the main subject of conversation in any given day is the quality of the office coffee. What makes the environment different is the merchandise that is dotted around the stage. The constant reminder of the fact that “sex” is linked to “fun” when juxtaposed with the definitely unfunny subjects of IVF, death and a complex mother-son relationship give the play a layer of depth that is surprising and effective.

But fun this play undoubtedly is. All the best tragedies have comedy running through them and we are treated here to some excellent one liners and visual gags with the props on loan from Ann Summers. It is a shame that it comes to a rather abrupt ending, but it is always a good thing to leave an audience wanting more. I’d urge anyone in need of a good laugh this week to go to Hampton Hill Theatre. You’ll not be disappointed.

Eleanor Marsh
November 2019

Photography by Jen Laney

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