Important and honest conversations about sex, sexuality, and gender, but Sexual Fears of a Modern Day Virgin needs more direction and focus.
In Sexual Fears of a Modern Day Virgin, two couples and a virgin go about their lives. One couple wants to try something more exciting in the bedroom. In the other, one of them has just come out as a trans woman to their gay male partner. And why does the singleton not feel anything sexual at all for anyone else?
Rant & Rave is a theatre company that specialises in LGBTQ issues, and Sexual Fears of a Modern Day Virgin is a piece that looks deeper at sex, sexuality, and gender than we think we know and/or are familiar with. The central theme that links all the characters together is virginity: either the usual definition, or looking at what virginity means to someone who is undergoing gender reassignment, or even if virginity is defined by orgasming during intercourse. Within each set of characters, who at points interact with another set, the conversations about these subjects is approached with a deft honesty and openness. They aren’t couched or embellished, but presented as lucid and empathetic trains of thought, giving a very real and sincere insight into the issues the characters face.
But whilst the writing is open and frank, it also means that Sexual Fears of a Modern Day Virgin also suffers from pacing issues. Whilst it is important to try and be as comprehensive as possible about the subjects broached, watching people have conversations or arguments that go on for a significant amounts of time to cover all bases, does cause the play to drag. This can be helped with some keener direction and production, but in essence the topics need to be dealt with in more varied and dramatically clever ways to ensure that audience stay engaged throughout. Furthermore, there doesn’t feel like much of an ultimate direction and destination for Sexual Fears of a Modern Day Virgin. Whilst all the stories involved come to an organic stop in their development, their resolves feel disconnected and unsure, especially with no obvious overarching goal for the play.
All this means is that Sexual Fears of a Modern Day Virgin needs some further development and some dramaturgy. Otherwise, in essence, it’s handled the topics very truthfully and earnestly and provides provocative food for thought for audience members who are able to stay engaged, making Sexual Fears of a Modern Day Virgin a show that will hopefully develop and go on to bigger and better things.
Direction & Production
There’s a very humble production behind Sexual Fear of a Modern Day Virgin, which serves the show quite nicely. The central trunk with hidden compartments and concealed lids gives the show a neat ingenuity and visual variety. However, some sound design and some more ambitious lighting design would certainly help lift the pace more, especially during scene changes which happen silently and awkwardly.
Oliver McFadden and Anissa Praquin’s direction allows the conversations to come through very naturally. But what it needs is more to play with more variance in pace and timbre, especially within the longer passages of text, to make it more manageable and dynamic and engagement.
The cast handle themselves really well and really bring out the honesty in the text. What’s especially sweet are the believable rapports that the two couples have between them, bringing a believablity that helps further audience empathy and connections with the topics. As the lone wolf of the show, Lewis Wilding, as Jordan, also takes to his monologues in quite a bouncy and wry manner, bringing life and humour into his character.
Important and undistilled, Sexual Fears of a Modern Day Virgin is an intelligent insight into topics other plays don’t breach with half as much integrity, even if it does need more work on focus and pacing.