Skip to main content

The Mystery of Love and Sex


THE MYSTERY OF LOVE AND SEX, by Bathsheba Doran – a Darlinghurst Theatre Company Production, at the Eternity Theatre, Burton St, Darlinghurst. 10 February – 12 March.

THE MYSTERY OF LOVE AND SEX, is an American play, the second of a trilogy of plays by Bathsheba Doran published under the title, THE MARRIAGE PLAYS. The first play is KIN; the third, PARENT’S EVENING.

THE MYSTERY OF LOVE AND SEX, presents a modern ‘nuclear’ family: Howard (Nicholas Papademetriou), a successful crime fiction novelist who happens to be Jewish; his wife, Lucinda (Deborah Galanos) who once was Catholic (Christian); their daughter, Charlotte (Contessa Treffone), who has just begun study at college and her best friend, since childhood, Jonny (Thuso Lekwape), who is also at college with her and is black and a strict Baptist. That Jonny is ‘black’ and the others ‘white’ does not make this grouping of people less of a ‘family’. In the two acts of the play, over the space of time and several scenes we are introduced to the questioning of what makes a family, and especially, what makes friendship: is it defined by love or sex?

The parents in the traditional marriage reveal the stress and strains of the obligation of the ‘rules’ of monogamy in marriage, principally, about the separating tug-of-war between expressions of love and the expressive demands of sex. Howard represents the human who negotiates and compromises the ‘political’ and ‘ethical’ adjustments in what he knows as love, which, may be exclusive of sex. Lucinda represents the one searching for human identity in a need for sexual expression. Charlotte and Jonny, in the comfort of a childhood-long, deeply bonded friendship both are questioning and are curious about the complexity of sexuality and their slow movement towards same-sex identity.

The play is a constantly stimulating and often very funny observation of a ‘modern life’ (of a certain class) that challenges the classic construct of what ‘family’ is, illustrating the changes going on around us, today. That ‘family’ is not necessarily just one of blood ties but is also an embrace of other distinctive ‘tribal’ sub-cultural identities. It, the family, is now, a necessarily widening of social and cultural values constituting a newer definition of ‘family’ through the acceptance of the mysteries of love and sex. This play has intelligence, wit and a deep and tender heart as it reveals a social awareness of surprising twists and turns.

This play has received, in it’s history of production, a mixed reception. What I was struck by was the ‘female voice’ in the way this story is told, for it tends to negotiate the ‘dramas’ of contemporary life through gentle discussion and open-heartedness, and does not necessarily come to certainties of resolution, but reveals a constantly evolving present of shifting ‘growths’. There is no ‘male voice’ dominating the content and form, here – the general tradition of playwriting – that requires conflict, resulting in ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. This point-of-view of contemporary storytelling is challenging what has been a standard mode for centuries (perhaps) and as the female writer becomes more and more present on our stages it can be a seismic shake for some of us – destabilising and, perhaps, disconcerting but no less pleasingly cathartic in its affect.

This production by Anthony Skuse has resolved the many locations and time journey of the play with an abstract solution to the Design, by Emma Vine, assisted with a Lighting Design by Verity Hampson. A horizontal, raised block, fronted with a white tilted ramp across the width of the stage serves as the playing space, dominated by a dead upside-down tree suspended on one side of the stage, with the real historic architectural features of this theatre on view – a representation of a cultural, religious past?

The company of actors, Mr Papademetriou, Lekwape and Ms Galanos and Treffone are committed and intrinsically connected, a unit of actors that are apparent in their sense of the aims of the writer and trusting to the ‘music’ of their playing in a gently understated manner. It is this that sometimes diffuses the impact of the play for not always are the actors reaching out, at least technically, out, to the whole of the audience – it is sometimes too cinematic in volume, both, physically and, especially vocally – it lacks sustained ‘theatrical’ communication. The performances seemed to be measured, as yet, to a smaller space – perhaps, the rehearsal room. Ms Galanos and Treffone had the most impact, on the night I attended, with a gradually blossoming of character revelation.

THE MYSTERY OF LOVE AND SEX, in the Eternity Theatre, is a very interesting play and really worth catching. Recommended.