Review: 1972 The Future of Sex

Tom Chandler 4 March 2022
Image Credit: Girton College Old Hall

8 chairs, 7 actors, 6 lamps, 50 minutes, 4 microphones,3 couples navigating the complicated world of sex, 2 strings of fairy lights, and one of the most intimate and entrancing shows I have seen in Cambridge.

 

A sold-out first night, misjudging how long it would take me to get to Girton, I walked into the room early and was greeted to a room filled with chairs in concentric circles which formed the stage. The overhead lights, off, the room only lit by 6 lamps of varying sizes in the circle. Eventually, the performance started with a bang, various characters rattling off their views and opinions on sex, who’s having it, and its dangers, quickly situating us in 1972, the era of free love.

Over the course of the play, we follow 3 main couples and their varying relationships with sex; Rich (Quinn Vakharia) and Christine (Catriona Forrest) want to have sex for the first time after Rich’s gig; Anna (Saoirse Murray) and Tessa (Sarah Itam) meet in a record shop, leading to a night out and an unexpected trip to an adult video store; Penny (Lauren Court) and Martin (Ayushman Mukherjee) are lecturer and student, bumping into each other and having a night filled with radical feminist discussions.

The play, which began as a devised Fringe piece by The Wardrobe Ensemble, retained it’s devised and creative feel – the actors moving easily between roles, either named or unnamed as the voices in people’s heads. Giovanni Bernardi was perhaps the best at this, playing two tangential characters named Michael, Christine’s childhood friend, and George, who had sex with 3 men after a Fleetwood Mac concert, as well as playing multiple unnamed moments besides. Vakharia similarly did a wonderful job switching between Rich and Anton, a young man figuring out his identity under the pressure of judgement from his parents. In all, the multi rolling in this production was among the most effective I have seen in Cambridge, happening so smoothly and really giving you a sense that you were getting a really broad overview of so many different peoples lives – something hard to do with only 7 actors.

The piece had moments of truly beautiful movement, enhanced by the extreme low level lighting. The tactile nature of the lamp, being controlled by actors within the space rather than some unseen techie in a box really elevated the piece – the almost bedroom lighting effect meant the idea of sex was never far from our minds and brought a real intimacy to it. What must also be mentioned is the ‘intimacy light’ as it is listed on Camdram – a small disco light, brought on to symbolise the feeling of love at various moments. It walked the line between the symbolic and the ridiculous so well, which only could be done in a play like this which never lets you forget that it’s a piece of theatre. Some of the scene transitions, of which there were many, definitely could have been tightened up, but ultimately choreographed well.

The stand out performances were easily Court and Mukherjee, who had such natural chemistry and brilliant comic timing that I couldn’t help but be entranced by their scenes. Itam and Murray had similarly good chemistry, and Murray’s portrayal of pre-date nerves was painfully perfect. Forrest was also stunning, particularly in her symbolic movement through watching an adult film, though Christine and Rich were perhaps the least developed of the relationships. This was complicated by the fact many of Rich’s scenes backed onto Anton’s and there was little clarity that the two were separate people at first.

The use of microphones was brilliant as a prop, but in such a small space, with the characters often shouting into them, I question their need to be on. Much of the play was underscored with electric guitar, which was perfect in producing this nostalgic feel for a time I never experienced, but I wish there were a couple more noticeable pop songs in the show, given how important music is to the characters.

The play ends 30 years in the future, with a glimpse at Anna and Tessa at a Britney Spear’s concert in the early 00s – they both married and settled down with other people, both became like their parents before them, reminding us it is almost inevitable that our sex lives will die in time, and we should live whilst we’re young. In all, this was an ambitious and experimental piece of theatre, perfectly staged and lit, and excellently acted. As a fledgling group, with few having other credits to their name, I hope to see every member of this team on stage again soon. My biggest complaint? That it didn’t go on longer.

4/5 Stars.