Sex Education

Mon 21st – Mon 28th August 2017

reviews

Kate Plummer

at 23:57 on 21st Aug 2017

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Set in a school, 'Sex Education' presents characters at the cusp of big changes in their lives. We are introduced to an aspiring teacher, played by Madeleine Pollard, training through her gap year before starting a degree at Edinburgh. Her boyfriend Rhys, played by Kieran Zielinski is retaking his A- Levels. A group of sixth formers at the brink of adulthood and their dissatisfied teacher complete the cast. What unfolds is a plot with a coming-of-age vibe that centres around the issues that the characters face, in terms of their love lives and their futures, and as the title suggests, is an interesting example of social commentary about the role of sex education in a modern technological age.

By and large, the acting is good, with actors such as Antoni Czerwinski deploying excellent comic timing and the relationships between all the characters are believable. What lets the cast down slightly is that Zielinski, who, perhaps from a lack of acting experience, plays his role slightly too dramatically. Every word was shouted and punctuated with such dramatic facial expressions that some of the scenes between him and Pollard, that were meant to be emotional did not have the effect that they could have.

In terms of plot, the discussion of the need for a more developed sex education in schools constitutes an interesting social issue to tackle. However, at times scenes set in the classroom became preachy and Pollard's character was used too much as a vehicle for the writer's opinions and messages. A more subtle way of integrating these in the play would have been more effective.

Other parts of the writing were also slightly messy and unfinished. There was a hint of a back story revealed about why Rhys needed to retake his A- Levels that was left hanging. Basic facts that would have allowed us to understand the characters more, like what degrees they were about to study, were left out which made a scene where the teacher tried to persuade Pollard to become a microbiologist seemed surprising.

Perhaps a bit longer in rehearsal would have benefited the whole team. Transitions between scenes were awkward and badly organised and at one point an actor was on set well before his cue, which made the scene lose all sense of believability and was confusing. At times, actors stumbled over lines that maybe needed to be committed to memory slightly better and at the end, there was no clear sign that the play was over, which left the audience in awkward silence for a second before deciding to clap.

Overall, the play had an interesting premise but teething problems meant that it was not as good as it could have been: unpolished, but full of potential.

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Helena Snider

at 11:00 on 22nd Aug 2017

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New writing about sex at the Frings isn’t always promising. But this new play by Cressida Peever, set around a school, where teachers, students and graduates navigate the difficult blurred lines of teenage and adult relationships and sexual encounters, is funny, fresh, and inspiring to watch.

The play shows us Rebecca, a new graduate returning back to assistant teach Sex Education lessons with her older biology teacher. The pair clash about teaching methods, as the young assistant asks for sex-positive lessons and open conversation, which soon cause both open, interesting conversation, and then of course complete mayhem in the classroom. Alongside the classroom drama, Rebecca must deal with her own issues with a boyfriend pressuring her to do things that she otherwise would not.

Philippa Lawford’s direction is fast-paced and slick and the comic timing is perfect. For me and several of the audience members I spoke to, many scenes of the play resonated with teenage encounters that we have experienced in the English school system. Sex education should be a topic that we are all comfortable with and used to, yet this play highlights the glaring gap in the syllabus for real, informative information that doesn’t just consist of scare-mongering about STI’s, and gives a witty and very honest portrayal of the difficulties of being teenagers surrounded by sex in pornography and the media, with very little idea of what it really consists of.

Madeleine Pollard’s performance as Rebecca is remarkable: nuanced and enthusiastic without being irritating, and the moment where she breaks down and cries is extremely touching. Casey Frederikse, who plays the lead “troublemaker” in the classroom, is charismatic and captivating to watch as we see him make decisions he later regrets. Lily Kuenzler, the new girl thrust into the lion’s den of her new school, is funny, bold, and I found myself silently cheering her on from my seat when she stands up to Frederikse’s careless arrogance.

At times, perhaps, the play becomes too much of a lecture, as is so easy to do when such a pertinent topic is being tackled. Striking the balance between educating and amusing the audience is always difficult – and perhaps some of the scenes could have been slightly cut down to avoid erring towards the former.

But overall, it’s a very funny and well-directed piece performed by a highly talented cast, and I’m sure that this run will not be its last.

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