EFR - Reviews of All The Men We've Never Slept With

All The Men We've Never Slept With

Sat 11th – Sat 25th August 2012

reviews

Pia Dhaliwal

at 02:33 on 17th Aug 2012

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The prospect of watching two people on a stage as they alternately sing and talk about the men they’ve never slept with is an intriguing one no matter how you slice it – there’s always something rather magnetic about people willing to be honest about what most basic yet simultaneously controversial human experience (or in this case, the experience of not having that experience). Armed with a keyboard, a folder of music, and a lot of stories, Bridie Lee-Kennedy and Courtney Powell have crafted a wonderfully intimate experience around the topic of their thoughts on sex – one that is honest, friendly and enjoyably liberating.

The obvious pitfalls of such a premise are neatly avoided – never once did I feel things were getting gratuitously raunchy, or unbearably preachy. Instead, some friendly pre-show bantering with the audience as people took their seats made the already relaxed venue that bit more intimate – an atmosphere no doubt aided by drinks and the lateness of the hour. The first song of the evening set out the tone of the evening wonderfully, with Lee-Kennedy and Powell continuing their friendly back-and-forth in musical form during their opening song. They went on to reveal their different yet complementary attitudes towards sex and relationships – occasionally teasing, yet always respectful towards each other’s views.

The pacing of the show is excellent, divided fairly evenly between songs and casual chatting to the audience – though bookended by a fairytale read out by Lee-Kennedy with background music by Powell. The two are clearly greater than the sum of their parts; their respective strengths – writing and music – go incredibly well together, and their obvious chemistry as a double-act is reflected in the easy way they speak to each other and the audience. Occasionally there was a slightly contrived air in exchanges that had obviously taken place in many previous shows, but no more so than the average stand-up act, and this did not really detract from the overall sincerity of their show. Their anecdotes, musical or not, are frankly told, ranging from the experience of dating someone who’s just sort of ‘good enough’ to the experience of meaningless sex to the experience of supporting Edward Cullen. Later on, members of the audience are also encouraged (if they so desire) to share their own stories of the one (or ones) who got away – an invitation to which they are by that point pretty receptive, potentially due to that aforementioned combination of lateness and drink, but also because the whole evening just fosters that kind of feeling – a sort of cosy warmth that invites sharing and confidentiality. I doubt a lot of performers would be able to invite that kind of truthfulness, but somehow these two do.

Overall, this experience is an exceedingly enjoyable one. Both Lee-Kennedy and Powell come across as charming, candid individuals – the sort of people you’d want to get a drink with. The writing and music is great, and I found myself sorry to discover that there was no CD available despite their exceptionally catchy songs and pleasant vocals. Though possibly not for people looking for something loud and raunchy, anyone looking for a low-key, yet undeniably funny, thought-provoking, and moving (not to mention free!) late-night show to watch should definitely give this a try.

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Ettie Bailey-King

at 09:41 on 17th Aug 2012

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‘Sugar and Vice: All the Men We’ve Never Slept With’ is a hilarious and thought-provoking combination of cabaret, confession and comedy. Brydie Lee-Kennedy and Courtney Powell are masterful performers. The songs are sultry, harmonious and - at times - absolutely beautiful. They range from absurdly hilarious (a love-song that frequently mentions diarrhoea) to pointed and poignant (‘Bad Habit’), yet whatever the song’s topic they all share in a core sense of the show’s theme. It’s a deeply uplifting one and potentially a taboo-smashing one as well. For a show that will have you in stitches with laughter, it’s surprisingly stimulating. Not everyone will be won over by its sexual politics – indeed, I disagreed with many of their ideas – but even where the subtext wasn’t quite to my taste, I felt powerfully won over. They’re a genuinely compelling duo; their verve and vivacity was infectious and the audience was visibly hooked.

While the musical side of the evening is an unadulterated pleasure, the spoken comedy is also a real delight. Lee-Kennedy is a gifted, gregarious speaker with a sharp line in smart and silly wise cracks. The set-pieces which made up the meat of this show were a mixed bag, as many of them went on for too long but simultaneously stopped short of their comic potential. The overall piece is well-structured and benefits from a strong narrative thread (although, again, it wasn’t to my tastes and made me wince a little), but it’s the off-the-cuff humour which most impresses.

The soaring high-points of this show lie in the intersection between silly and serious stories. Powell is a charming and charismatic story-teller (but could do with tightening up the narrative arc of her vignettes) while Lee-Kennedy is the more sultry of the two singers and leans upon that impressively quick wit to draw in her audience. They both do so with finesse, and on the night we visited they stirred us into such enthusiastic participation that the section ran considerably over time. That they stayed with the crowd, deftly mining it for big laughs and using crowd confessions as a springboard into more of their own, tells you something of the warm-hearted and generous ethos which lies behind ‘All The Men We’ve Never Slept With’. We’ll never know how good the missed numbers were (‘Self Esteem’ sounded particularly promising), but if the others were anything to go by, they can’t have been anything short of sensational tunes with memorable gags and a little food for thought.

There is a tolerant, open-minded spirit to this show. It’s a rare pleasure to find performers as likeable as Lee-Kennedy and Powell, and the material certainly matches. They have such chemistry and charisma together that I left feeling buoyed up with optimism. If US presidential elections have occasionally been won by questions as trivial as ‘Who would I rather share a beer with?’ then Sugar and Vice would pass this test with flying colours. They’re as sassy, spirited and stimulating as you could possibly ask for. When I asked myself why exactly they were so entertaining, it came down to something like this: they come across as two women you’d really want to go to the pub with. So they’re not Hollywood-fabulous (although the music has its moments) and they’re not as slick and professional as all that (although pacier timing would go some way towards that) but they’re fun and fantastic and you’ll probably leave wanting more.

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