26 October 2013

Sex Cells at the Riverside

The blurb for Sex Cells ended with, "A must-see for all mothers, want-to-be mothers and anyone who's ever had a mother.", which is a pretty fair description of what the play is about and why you should see it.

The blub also says that it was set in the call centre of a business selling sex toys and that was unusual enough to pique my interest. Besides, I like going to the Riverside.

There was nothing else on that day so I got there in good time to have something to eat and drink first.

That also gave me time to look at the current exhibition in the bar area (it was of posters for surf films) and to look at the plans they have for expanding the studios in to the empty block by the river, creating a new riverside walkway in the process. I hope that it happens.

The reception area had a cake sale related to the play but I had eaten so was able to resist temptation. Until the interval.

Sex Cells was in Studio 3, that's the small one to the right of the entrance which is where I usually find myself as that is where the more fringey of the fringe plays get put on.

I was a little disappointed in the size of the audience but that was because I was quick off the mark to secure my usual seat (second row, next to the aisle on the right) and the steady trickle of people following me in filled the studios to a very healthy extent. Indeed, it was quite possible the largest audience that I had ever seen in there.

The call centre was in the centre of the stage, four desks with phones and catalogues, with the manager's office off to the right and a storage room to the left.

The four main characters, all women, sit at the desks taking calls and chatting to each other in the gaps between them. Their ineffectual boss sits in the office.

The women all have different issues relating to femininity and motherhood.

Tiffany is young and is enjoying life. She gets plenty of sex. Sylvie is approaching forty, is desperate for a baby and has been trying IVF. Janice has young children and they dominate her life with the demands of schools and piano lessons. Lilly is older than the rest, is in a lifeless marriage and has no contact with her son.

In the course of the evening we learn more about their hopes and fears and all of their lives change a little. A course of IVF fails, a man dies, a child gets in to a good school, a relationship ends and the manager continually misunderstands the conversation he joins.

Their lives waxed and waned over the course of a few months (the passage of time was subtly indicated by the addition of stars to the employee of the month chart on the wall behind them) and these broad changes were punctuated with sparks of humour helped by the place they worked.

The changing lives of these four women gave us many insights to what motherhood is from the desperate need to be a mother to the fear that children grow up to be unpleasant people, with lots of other emotions between these.

The play ended on an almost happy note though it is not major and it is not permanent, it was just that the various stories reached a slight upswing at the same time. And that was a convenient place to end a story that had kept me enthralled and engaged for the evening.

I liked Sex Cells a lot, probably because I had a mother.

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