Theatre review: Sex Education, Summerhall, Edinburgh

Sex Education, Summerhall (Venue 26)
Sex Education, Summerhall (Venue 26)
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Harry Clayton-Wright’s extraordinary Sex Education is about sex. Gay sex.

Sex Education, Summerhall, Edinburgh * * * *

Lots of gay sex, and gay porn, some of it quite unusual. It’s also about his mum, and their relationship, and how they feel proud and loving and protective about each other despite their differences. And it’s about her inability to give him the information he needed about sex growing up, and society’s failure to provide that information anywhere else. It’s about information and the ethics of its provision – when is too much information harmful and when is too little? And where does a bunny on a leash in the snow fit into all this?

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Fans of Briefs will recall Clayton-Wright from his showstopping drag routine as a housewife with a thing for a standard lamp. That sense of joyous, absurdly playful eroticism suffuses Sex Education and loosens us up for some more hard-hitting material too. The opening minutes set the tone, with a video alternating adorable childhood pictures of Clayton-Wright with increasingly graphic, sometimes bizarre, sexual imagery of others and himself before he appears in a wedding dress to tell us he wants to explore his relationship with both sex and his parents. We hear him interview his mum about her own challenging upbringing and her unusual relationship with his unusual dad, and he tells us about his bumpy journey into gay sexuality via porn, cruising and the internet. It all plays out through a mix of comedy, lip-sync, dance and video.

It’s an exuberant, propulsive and often hilarious hour, with a huge amount of material and a wide emotional range. For all the extremity of some of the subject matter, what shines out is the indispensable need not only for self-knowledge, self-empowerment and pride but also for vulnerability, care and consideration in the way we treat ourselves, our loved ones and everyone else.

Until 25 August

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