An Argument About Sex (2 stars)

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An Argument About Sex

An audacious conceit that lacks thematic focus

This site-specific production springs from an audacious conceit: an updating of 18th century playwright Pierre de Marivaux’s comedy La Dispute, framed within a topical argument. Was the severity of the economic downturn down to inherently male recklessness? Could the crash have been avoided with the restraining influence of women at the top of the financial sector?

Pamela Carter’s play opens with just such a discussion between hedge fund managers Charlie (Stuart Bowman) and Helen (Selina Boyack), the latter having been shot down in flames by her male contemporaries for suggesting that it all could have been so much less painful had there been more women with their steady hands on the tiller. Charlie believes the issue is less clear-cut and claims intimate knowledge of an experiment in which four human guinea pigs (two boys and two girls) have been raised in isolation, without nurture. At this point Selina and the audience are conducted into a nearby ‘Garden of Eden’ to witness the results of the 18-year experiment.

What follows is an intermittently amusing, but generally coy, hybrid of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Blue Lagoon as the four teenagers are introduced to each other for the first time. Frustratingly, Marivaux’s/Carter’s re-enactment of the dawn of creation is mainly an exploration of male/female betrayal, and has little to contribute to the debate on the contemporary economic situation. It’s left to an onscreen lecture from scientist Matt Ridley to explain in lay terms the latest thinking on nature versus nurture, awkwardly topping off an unwieldy piece that confuses by its lack of thematic focus.

Tramway, Glasgow, until 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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