Sex is not necessarily sexy. Mammalian Diving Reflex demonstrates this notion over and over again in their international edition of All the Sex I’ve Ever Had, conceived by Darren O’Donnell, and playing at Toronto’s Luminato Festival. We are only human. And while we tend to have ideal sexual fantasies and create images in our heads about the way we think our lives will turn out, sometimes things go south. And oftentimes, we are left to pick up the pieces of what was once a dream and move on with our lives.
All the Sex I’ve Ever Had has been performed six times around the world, and this international edition combines actors from the previous performances in order to create an even more diverse experience. While this show is inherently theatrical, I wouldn’t necessarily call it theatre. It depicts real people, as themselves, telling their real life stories. If this was a dinner party, these actors would be the first guests on my list. Their stories are captivating and heartbreaking and there is nothing too crazy or out-of-this-world about any of them. They are honest. And they are beautiful.
However, this isn’t a dinner party. This is theatre. And as theatre, this show does not quite hit the mark for me. It is, in a nutshell, a bunch of wise people sharing their life experiences. The play seemed to be improvised at times, but for the majority of the show, the actors (Bette, Christine, František, Mme. Goh, Hattie Louise, Uli and Helga) were reading off of pieces of paper. This became disorganized at times, as many of the actors were losing their spots, saying the wrong line, et cetera. More rehearsal time would have probably been beneficial.
That being said, this play does achieve its goal of taking idealistic notions of sex and bringing them down to reality. The ensemble shows the appealing and atrocious sides of sexuality in a way that the audience can relate to, often throwing them into fits of laughter, making them gasp in shock, or making them speak out in anger.
I commend Mammalian Diving Reflex’s efforts of getting the audience involved in the action of the play. I am all for getting spectators to step out of their comfort zone and having them experience something new or something that scares them, but I also believe that there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed. And asking the audience if any one of them have been victims of sexual violence is overstepping the boundaries, in my personal opinion.Talk about breaking conventions. This play has taboo written all over it. The ensemble already achieves their goal of making the audience feel that they are not alone and that everyone experiences similar highs and lows when it comes to sex and sexuality. The audience involvement is completely unnecessary.
At the beginning of the show, the Director of Creative Production (Eva Verity), posing as Rob Ford, gets the audience to pledge not to speak about the incidents that take place in the theatre that evening. But like Rob Ford’s dirty little secrets, this ensemble cannot make any promises that beans will not be spilled, and that puts certain audience members in very sticky situations. When certain spectators are selected and singled out to share details about their private lives, I cringe in silence. Not cool, Mammalian Diving Reflex, not cool.
I must say, however, that whether or not audience members will enjoy the show depends on their own personal boundaries. There were a few people who walked out. There were also several spectators who were enjoying themselves and who were fully engaged for the entirety of the show. If you’re a person who can handle some vulgarity and personal questions, then I say go for it.
All the Sex I’ve Ever Had is playing at the Isabel Bader Theatre, as part of the Luminato Festival, until June 15. For tickets and more information,visit www.luminatofestival.com.