An Argument About Sex preview

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Pamela Carter's theatrical exploration of how gender affects behaviour

A few months back, an outburst from acting Prime Minister Harriet Harman, blaming our current recession upon testosterone-fuelled male traders, reopened an old debate about gender and human behaviour. By coincidence, at the same time, preparations were underway for a new play, adapted from Marivaux’s La Dispute, which seemed, uncannily, to address the very same issues.

Pamela Carter’s new play sees two wealthy hedge fund managers conduct a debate about whether male risk-taking and female risk-aversion are inborn biological conditions or socially constructed behaviours. In order to resolve the issue, the pair adjourn to a place where they can watch teenagers interacting to draw appropriate conclusions. Director and designer Stewart Laing highlights the aptness of the piece: ‘We knew we were doing this before the financial crash, but the events of recent times have kind of emphasised the point. I think gender difference is particularly apparent in the financial industry. The original play is quite short – the published version is about 35 pages long; what Pamela has done is put a contemporary framework around it. There’s a long scene at the beginning and an analysis at the end to place it in a contemporary context.’

The piece is also unusual in its use of space, with performances taking place initially in an intimate studio theatre, and then on a main stage at both the Tramway and the Traverse theatre. ‘It’s quite a brave move on the venues’ part,’ Laing says. ‘I like intimate staging, but I like more epic staging too, and I think it’ll be interesting to give an audience both in the same night. I think in Scotland in particular, the site-specific way of doing things has really taken off, and audiences have been opened up to going on a journey physically, not just sitting in one place for the entire evening. So it sort of borrows that, but you don’t have to wade through a muddy abandoned factory or something; it all happens in the comfort zone of one theatre.’ After the thought-provoking Slope at Tramway a couple of years back, this looks like another ideas-enriched evening of theatre.

Tramway, Glasgow, Thu 1–Sat 17 Oct, then touring.

An Argument About Sex

  • 2 stars

A response to Pierre de Marivaux's comedy, 'La Dispute', writer Pamela Carter and director Stewart Laing's new work examines gendered attitudes towards risk-taking and settling arguments, in the context of relationships, the economy and a sociological experiment involving isolated teenagers.

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