Sex in the Theatre

“O everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power” Oscar Wilde

Every day we are bombarded with powerful images of human sexuality, and of course it rarely ever is “about sex”, it is the tool used as a sales pitch to sell wine, shoes, perfumes and whatever product which is the new craze.  But this article is about theatre, one of the greatest forms of entertainment which some describe as an imitation of life.

Throughout history the theatre has paralleled the many happenings over the eras in various societies, and it is no different today as theatre and film highlight our obsession with both sex and mechanisms of power:  It is this reality that forces us to face the difficult issues relating to sex and its place in our lives and in our art.

By now you may be wondering why this topic? Well, a few weeks ago I attended a theatre festival where secondary schools presented short improvised plays; one or two of the productions were laced with sexual issues.  There was a rape scene highlighting the plague of incest and teenage promiscuity.  The scenes in the play were hard-hitting containing graphic role play.

violent drama

After the performance, some audience members expressed dissatisfaction and outrage about the “sexual content of the improvised scenes”.  This is not the first time a St. Lucian audience seems shellshocked at sexual content on stage; the questions raised during the heated discussion centred around “Must these types of issues be put on stage before a live audience?” and “Should the content of theatre in St. Lucia be censored?” (avoiding any resemblance of sexual content or context)

I am not sure how these questions should be answered; however, what I discovered about the theatre is its power through freedom of artistic expression. It is ‘in your face’, in one space, in a moment in time not divided by a screen or an artificial lens, it is your eyes, ears and all your senses being stimulated by an immersive experience.

In reflecting, I think, one goes to see a film at the cinema, we watch entire love scenes but somewhere in our minds we can easily dismiss it in a few seconds or minutes – there is enough distance from ‘reality’.  However, a role play put on by students illustrating a real problem affecting them in our society seems (for many) too much to be displayed on stage. Maybe it is that the concept of theatre in St. Lucia has not evolved enough?

Is it a question of sexual abuse, and issues surrounding that are still taboo brought too close to us by our children portraying them mere feet away from us?  Perhaps the image of the harsh reality of who we are and what we have become is overwhelming?

Is theatre supposed to be all neat and polished, packaged to go easy on the eyes – a pleasant evening’s light entertainment? In another light, is this a bastardizing of the theatre, this showing glimpses of our social ills like incest, and sexual abuse in its raw state? One could argue that it was the style of theatre that was unpleasant, unbridled improvisation (roots theatre) resembling a poorly produce reality show on television.  Not refined enough for our tastes perhaps.

At the end of the day who can say.  If “sex is about power” then surely  in comparison, the power of  theatre is to create catharsis in an audience in the hope of getting them to talk, and ultimately change lives, expose truth, and give a voice to the voiceless. Or then again, I put an alternative to you; is theatre a medium that if not censored will eventually blur the lines of civility and decency?

What do you think?

Author: Drenia Frederick, Director of Events & Production

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