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The Sexual Awakening of Peter Mayo
Published on Tuesday, 23 August 2011
3

3 stars

Pleasance Courtyard (venue website)
Theatre
3-16, 18-29 Aug, 2:45pm-3:45pm
Reviewed by Eve Nicol

 Recommended for age 14+ only.

Having learnt about sex from an episode of Thunderbirds, it's safe to say that Peter Mayo – in his early twenties and newly single – still has much to learn, not just about the facts of life but about people too. Accidental text messages and chance encounters online mark the start of his path of discovery.

Light-hearted and witty, the play looks at how our relationships with people have changed through modern technology and our decisions about what information we disclose about ourselves.  Though online communication is a relatively modern method of interaction, the script smartly avoids references to anything excessively “now”. Indeed, the tale of Peter's sexual exploration is so compelling that the technological side of the story is not as interesting as the real-life interactions of the three characters.

The focus on character also means the atmosphere never gets too uncomfortable, even when talk turns to fetishes, anonymous encounters and sexual deviancy. It's deftly done and avoids titillation for its own sake. The characters are rounded, believable and extremely likeable despite their personal, hypocritical shortcomings. You really feel for the loss of Peter's innocent outlook as he grows bolder, and though the other characters may play it cool, all are inwardly just as awkward as the novice Peter – proving "no strings" sex impossible.

This is a zippy play, with plenty of great laughs and an endearing central performance. It manages to raise questions of responsibility and construction of identity with a very light touch. The bare staging, however, becomes rather dull as the play progresses, and extended scenes of characters talking across sight lines creates some confusion.

The depiction of the high-tech, high-speed cyber world is curiously analogue. Sex chats are conducted over dinky, rasping megaphones. Rather than the real-life trend of wireless cloud coverage, the online world in the play is restricted by cables and boxed in. Still, the neon cage that forms the chartrooms is simple and effective; a floating cube which detaches those inside from the audience.

It's a witty script and there are some great, warm, funny performances, but it doesn't quite deliver the imagination or punchy statement required to make The Sexual Awakening of Peter Mayo a must-see. But it's an entertaining show, an excellent remedy if you've over indulged in serious drama, and is well worth the ticket price.

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