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The Sex Comedies
AUTHOR: Iain Heggie
DIRECTOR: Denise Mulholland
VENUE: St James Cavalier
DATES: 22-24, 29-31 January 2010, 5 - 7 February 2010
CAST: Polly March, Edward Mercieca, Lizzie Eldridge, Malcolm Galea, Paul Portelli, Andrew Galea, Jo Caruana, Chiara Hyzler, Barrie Stott, Joe Azzopardi, Faye Paris, Mikhail Basmajian
SUMMARY: The Sex Comedies is a collection of simple and hilarious vignettes by Scottish author Iain Heggie. Scenes vary from an ill-fated blind date to two boys planning to make out with Shuggie’s Ma, but never actually getting there, to a couple of old swingers planning to rent out their house.
What the Papers Said:
Sex: the pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous and the expense damnable. Yes, Lord Chesterfield got it perfectly right when he came up with this pearl of wisdom, and it was certainly showcased well in Unifaun Theatre’s production of Iain Heggie’s The Sex Comedies at St. James Cavalier last weekend. Split into a series of six short sketches, each a two-hander, the rethoric used is incisive and typical of the subtle type of British humour which we have come to enjoy. The concept behind the staging of such a production was fresh and effective with set designer Pierre Portelli’s simple, elegant backdrop of a giant ringbinder bearing the same front cover as the programme, whose pages were turned with every new sketch to reveal, first the sketch’s title and protagonists’ names with a quotation from the lyrics of a popular song as a form of epigraph, and then it would carry a large background picture appropriate to the situation.
Edward Mercieca and Polly March starred in The Lodger, as a husband and wife who are decorating a room in preparation to take in a lodger. Their coversation and its subsequent development into a playful reminiscing of their life as young lovers, leads them to change their mind about taking in someone new to relive them of their sexual boredom – for the original intention hinted at the idea of a threesome. Mr. Mercieca teased and cajoled the equally frolicksome Ms. March while they both played with paint-brushes and quaintly fetishised interior decoration in an quasi-endearing and effortless way which revealed the actors’ level of comfort in playing their parts.
Total Strangers saw Lizzie Eldridge and Malcolm Galea meeting at a bar where she was eagerly waiting for her blind date to arrive, only to find an over-eager man ready to flirt with her and lead her on to the extent that her irritation at his keeping her from her real date, who never does turn up, is transformed into a genuine eagerness to test the waters, so to speak. It also became a commentary on how fate has a habit of throwing things at us so blindly that even the unplanned can result in upheaval. Ms. Eldridge’s performance was elegant and just the right side of prim while Mr. Galea managed to combine suave mystery and cheeky humour extremly well. Fate also has a habit of putting us in situations where our patience is tested along with our relationships and where our true characters emerge. Jo Caruana and Chiara Hyzler play a pair of sisters waiting rather impatiently for an love interest to turn up for tea in The Cake. What they don’t know is that it is a mutual love interest and that while the boy in question takes his time to turn up, they explore their relationship in a series of jibes and backchats which establish the pecking order of their family situation and sibling rivalry comes to the fore when both want to have their cake and eat it. As the weaker sister, Ms. Hyzler mmanaged to capture her frustation at being pushed around by the more savvy and domineering portrayal which Ms. Caruana gave – both created the right amout of tension between the two characters.
While females deal with their love spates in different ways, boys will be boys and Joe Azzopardi and Barrie Scott were no different in the matey banter of the sketch Waiting for Shuggie’s Ma. Set on the rooftop of a council block in Glasgow, the two friends are waiting for their friend and neighbour, Hugh (Shuggie)’s mother as she returns to the estate from her day out. Apparently a well-endowed woman, Shuggie’s Ma is the object of their laddish, adolescent interest and while waiting they watch the world go by without ever letting anything escape their sharp observations, from the Boys Brigade to other neighbours. Their interprataion was not only credible from the good execution of the Glaswegian dialect but also from the perpective they offered, which was reminiscent in tone to that of the cult BBC show The Young Ones.
One of my favourite sketches was The Reading Room, which saw Faye Paris and Mikhail Basmajan surreptitiuosly battling it out in a library where at first she rejects ever having known him when he approaches her and suggests that her reading and literary pursuits turn him on, and which makes Ms. Paris’ library prude turn into a coy little minx whose recitation and book play give a whole new dimension to the playful phrase “I’ll meet you in the stacks”. It was a truly amusing piece to watch and Mr. Basmajan was endearingly dorky and gauche. What had the audience in fits however, and truly was the pièce de resistance was Education of a Gentle Pervert, where Paul Portelli and Andrew Galea played two very different types of homosexual voyeurs. It was, in the large part a silent sketch which focused the main comic elements on the actors’ ability to interact by relying solely on facial expression and comic timing and I must say, both actors excelled at it. Paul Portelli’s angular movements as he furtively looks at gay porn on a secluded park bench and eyes up Andrew Galea’s younger tease of a gay sunbather were hilarious in themselves but add them to his plastic features and you have a winner. It was the most tasteful staging of sleaze that I have seen in a while and this is all, I’m sure, thanks to director Denise Mullholland’s excellent choices in casting and direction. Kudos all round – it was a pleasure to watch and certainly not to be missed.
-Andre' Delicata, The Times.
Iain Heggie is a Scottish playwright who seems to have quite a following, but his The Sex Comedies (StJames Cavalier) can give us only a limited view of his ability. The show consists of seven playlets which are comical in varying degrees and could fit very comfortably into a variety programme. Each piece has two characters neither of whom is well rounded, and depends for its success on developing swiftly from an often clearly defined point of departure.
The couples in each piece have known each other for some time, or else are total strangers. Thus, the ageing couple in The Lodger have known each other far too long.Theyare making incompetent attempts at decorating a room they can let to a stranger who, they hope, can bring sexual excitement to their lives.
The man (Edward Mercieca) has been advertising for a young woman lodger, while his wife (PollyMarch) has advertised separately for a young man. The growing tiff between the two is prevented as they paint on the walls the sexual attributes they would like a prospective lodger to have,and very quickly they fall into helpless hilarity and as the curtain falls they are ready to have sex with each other. Mercieca and March hold one’s attention with the kind of bantering only a couple long used to each other can produce.
Total Strangers is probably the most interesting of the pieces from a theatrical point of view, and is played skilfully by Lizzie Eldridge and Malcolm Galea.
A young woman has paid to meet in a restaurant a young man whose photo she has, but finds her self faced instead by another person who is totally indifferent to her feelings and happily describes how he came to have her photo from a whole series of other men.
He plays cruelly with her as she stands up to him, but her intelligence cannot cope with his abilityto puzzle and then excite her, and when at the end he gets up and leaves her, the woman still does not know what has hit her.
In The Reading Room, set in a public library, the man and the woman are total strangers despite the man’s persistence in saying they have known each other in the past. This time, it is the woman who wins. She sees that the man is the type whose only sexual excitement lies in being talked to in a certain way, so she leads him along the talking path he has suggested except that at the crucial point she puts in a variant that brings his excitement down disastrously. Mikhail Basmajan is a comically unpleasant pest, while Faye Paris gets rid of him with elegant efficiency.
In Education of a Gentle Pervert Paul Portelli ,an extra-timid gay man, hopes he has found a partner in a park, only to discover that the other guy, played by Andrew Galea, is excited solely by photographing men and contemplating the pictures he has taken. For me, it was Portelli’s gigglingly nervous gentle pervert that made this trifling piece watchable.
Jo Caruana and Chiara Hyzler are the two young women who in The Cake are waiting for a young man they both fancy to come to tea and, each of them hopes, to have sex with. It is a trifle about rivalry that ends, as expected, in a phone call from the man saying he cannot make it to the tea party.
I fear that Waiting for Shuggie’s Ma, set at the top of a high-rise building in Glasgow was mostly incomprehensible to me, as I could not understand the thick Glaswegian dialect spoken by Joe Azzopardi and Barrie Stott.
Denise Mulholland’s razor-sharp direction of the pieces is enriched by Pierre Portelli’s very clever and admirably elegant set design.
Paul Xuereb, The Sunday Times, Malta.
THE SEX COMEDIES TA’ IAIN HEGGIE
UNIFAUN THEATRE PRODUCTIONS kellhom il-hsieb itellghu THE SEX COMEDIES fuq zewg weekends f’Jannar, izda dan ix-xoghol tant mar tajjeb li zdiedu 3 rapprezentazzjonijiet fil-5, 6 u 7 ta’ Frar.
Kienu hafna l-ingredjenti li wasslu ghal dan. Ewlenija fosthom hi t-tip ta’ udjenza li tmur StJCav jew l-MITP, udjenza zaghzugha li tippretendi li tara u tisma’ d-differenti, il-gdid , il-modernissimu, li ma tiddejjaqx tara jew tisma’ sitwazzjonijiet skabruzi, anzi jippretenduhom halli jhossuhom moderni u avantgardisti.
Raguni ohra hi l-ghazla tad-direttur u l-kast, ghazla li saret bil-ghaqal u bi hsieb. Imbaghad hemm il-livell tekniku bhad-dwal u s-sett inventiv li kompla zid mas-success tas-serati.
Is-sitt reviews li jiffurmaw dan ix-xoghol ta’ Iain Heggie kienu varjati sew u differenti hafna minn xulxin. Juru faccati differenti tal-imhabba u s-sess (ghalkemm minn dan kien hemm ftit li xejn!) Kellna l-ewwel l-imhabba bejn tnejn mizzewgin (Edward Mercieca u Polly March ) f’THE LODGER , tnejn min-nies m’ghadhomx zghir li jergghu jiskopru lil xulxin waqt li jkunu qed ibajdu (jew jizbghu?) il-kamra li kienu qed jittamaw li jikru. Iz-zewg atturi hargu tajjeb hafna l-aspett ta’ intimita` u imhabba matura li tiflah tigbed is-saqajn, tinki u anke kwazi kwazi twaqqa’ ghac-cajt ghax taf li n-naha l-ohra mhux se tiehu ghaliha, ghax taf safejn tista’ tasal.
Imbaghad kellna aspetti iehor tal-eros. F’TOTAL STRANGERS , tfajla(Lizzie Eldridge) li tkun qieghda tistenna l-blind date taghha ghal dakinhar issib ma’ wiccha lil zaghzugh (Malcolm Galea) li jittantaha u ma jhallihiex bi kwieta izda li l-indifferenza taghha ghalih tinbidel meta tarah se jitlaq.
Kwadru iehor li nhadem matul is-serata wriena relazzjoni inkwetanti bejn zewg ahwa tfajliet, wahda minnhom (Chiara Hyzler) xi ftit ritardata u differenti hafna minn ohtha (Jo Caruana), tfajla sabiha, certa minnha nnifisha u bl-agenda taghha diga ffurmata . F’THE CAKE naraw lit-tfajliet jistennew guvni li ghandu jigi ghat-te ghandhom. Ghat-tnejn hu importanti ghax it-tnejn bnew xenarju li jinkludih. Il-piki u l-insinwazzjonijiet bejn iz-zewg tfajliet ma naqsux.
F’WAITING FOR SHUGGIE’S MA din id-darba kellna lil zewg guvnotti li jinsabu fuq bejt ta’ blokk council flats li qed jistennew lil omm Shuggie – jew Hugh kif nafuh f’Ingliz ghax Shuggie hu l-istess isem bid-djalett ta’ Glasgow. It-tnejn li huma ma jiddejjqux ighaddu kummenti fuq din il-povra mara u fuq dak kollu li jaraw isehh quddiem ghajnejhom mill-post fil-gholi fejn kienu. Zgur li d-direttrici Denise Mulholland li hi mill-Iskozja u li studjat fl-Universita ta’ Glasgow kellha xalata tidderigi lil Joe Azzopardi u lil Barrie Stott li taw karatterizzazzjoni tajba ta’ zewg zghazagh Brittanici tal-lum.
L-ahhar zewg reviews li se nikteb dwarhom issa jkomplu juru iktar relazzjonijiet . F’THE READING ROOM rajna kif it-tfajla (Faye Paris ) rnexxielha tinbidel minn tfajla mgerrxa u kwazi kwazi imwerwra mill-guvni li jaqbad maghha (Mikhail Basmajan) fil-Librerija ghal wahda assertiva u certa minnha nnifisha malli ndunat li setghet tilghab bil-guvni kif riedet ghax il-kilba kbira li kellu ghas-sess gabitu qisu bla sahha. Malli ndunat li l-qari taghha kien qed jecitah, kompliet izzid id-doza sakemm ma felahx aktar. Il-mossi ta’ Basmajan u l-qari ta’ Paris qasmu lil kulhadd bid-dahq.
Hallejt ghall-ahhar THE EDUCATION OF A GENTLE PERVERT li fiha hadu sehem Paul Portelli u Andrew Galea ghax apparti li kien xoghol li dahhaq hafna u nhadem tajjeb hafna nissel fija sens ta’ pathos u tenerezza. Zewg omosesswali, wiehed ikbar mill-iehor fl-eta, jiltaqghu b’kumbinazzjoni fi gnien. L-ikbar fosthom (Paul Portelli) joqghod attent li jigbed l-attenzjoni taz-zaghzugh (Andrew Galea) li ma ddejjaqx jinkih u jiddominah. Il-karattri differenti ta’ dawn iz-zewg irgiel inhargu b’mod mill-iktar car, wiehed pjuttost misthi u sottomess, l-iehor mimli arja u prepotenza. Sa jgieghlu jippoza ghal ghadd ta’ ritratti ‘provokattivi ’ . Hafna minn dan l-iskecc kien bla kliem, imma l-mossi tal-wicc u tal-gisem taz-zewg atturi kienu elokwenti u fissru sew dak ki kien qed isehh.
Kelma specjali ghas-sett intelligenti ta’ Pierre Portelli u d-disinn tad-dawl ta’ Chris Gatt. Kienu tajbin hafna u ghenu mhux ftit ghas-success tar-rapprezentazzjoni.
JOYCE GUILLAUMIER, IT-TORCA
pictures by Joseph A. Borg