Church to break taboos with saucy Fringe show

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MORNINGSIDE ladies who believe sex is what the coal comes in will have their eyes opened in August when one of the capital’s best known churches hosts an adults-only show entitled 100% Sex Therapy.

Promoted as a cabaret- seminar and performed by Hank Wangford, the production is one of the highlights of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe bill at St George’s West, Shandwick Place. Also predicted to have the venue’s congregation rolling in the aisles is Julian Clary’s comedy Natural Born Mincer.

"I understand 100% Sex Therapy is entertaining and informative and a celebration of sex," said the Rev Peter MacDonald, the Church of Scotland minister. "If we can communicate that we, as a Church, have that kind of attitude too, then something positive can come out of that."

Produced by the Assembly organisation, the programme will enable the church to reach the huge audience which gathers for the Fringe said Mr MacDonald. He added that every act on the St George’s West bill would help break down prejudice.

Wangford is best known as a country-and-western singer, whose songs include Jogging with Jesus. However, as Dr Sam Hutt, he works in sexual healthcare and contraception, and appears to be a natural performer of 100% Sex Therapy.

Written by Dr Bernhard Ludwig, a psychologist, the show takes the form of a question-and-answer therapy session. It is that rarest of beasts, a German comedy, and won the Karl Award in 1999.

For those amateur psychologists who mourn the baleful effect of dark Presbyterian dogma on the national psyche, the show can hardly come soon enough.

Mr MacDonald acknowledged that the Kirk’s doctrine had faced criticism for "wrapping up" sexuality. However, he stressed the Church’s position had altered over time.

"Folk in the Church aren’t that out of kilter with the rest of society," he said. "The Church would want to promote loving, positive relationships. If, by putting on 100% Sex Therapy, we can shatter some folk’s misconceptions, it would be good."

The Assembly bill at St George’s West will take some of the best-known Fringe acts into Edinburgh’s West End, a district not noted as a performance centre in recent years.

Guy Masterton’s award- winning version of Under Milk Wood, by Dylan Thomas, will be staged at the 350-seat venue, along with Susannah York’s The Loves of Shakespeare’s Women, which was acclaimed at the 1999 Fringe. Tom Fleming stars in Every Blessed Thing, an account of the birth of the Iona community. Music will come from the guitarist Antonio Forcione, the Soweto Gospel Choir and Camut, a Spanish dance and drum group.

"We run a programme of events of our own over the year to which we can draw to the attention of our Fringe audience," said Mr MacDonald. "We hope to break out of that image of the dead hand of the Church as an institution, to be more open with folk, and to journey with them."

He added the Church had planned to put "a toe in the water" in this year’s Fringe. "The link with Assembly has taken us in a matter of months to where we hoped to be in three to five years," he said.

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