The Sexes, written by Polis Loizou and performed as part of the Camden Fringe at the Etcetera Theatre, was an unexpected gem on the fringe scene.
The Sexes focus on Lars and Jackie, an old married couple of actors who tear each other apart when in competition for a new gender unspecified lead role. Jackie was the wife played by a man Jaacq Hugo and Lars the husband by a women Laura Louise Baker. I was surprised by The Sexes because I was expecting a comedy and instead I got a dark relationship play. This was a pleasant surprise as, whilst it was quite witty at moments, it was the cutthroat dissection of each other so eloquently written that was the highlight. In the fight for this gender unspecified part of a hooker, Lars and Jackie pull apart each other’s weaknesses and strengths but not via a typical shouting match but by drawing upon each other’s past traumas like only a couple who had been married their whole life could do. Loizou had a great intimate style of writing that verged on poetic at times. The characters would imitate each other in interview situations to reveal hypocrisy and shallowness, took jabs at each other around the dressing room and bought each other literally to their knees in this power battle. Hugo was mesmerising to watch. From his physicality to calm persona he totally embodies Jackie this older woman with class and skill. There was nothing tacky about this portrayal, no drag like quality or over exaggerated gestures. I was captivated just watching him listen and do his makeup, utterly in the world of the play. I will look out for the name Jaacq Hugo in the future as I feel there’s more to see. Lars the husband played by Baker had the more challenging role. There was a clash of acting styles between Baker and Hugo that I couldn’t shake until the half way through the play. Baker’s approach started out for comedy effect but this soon became redundant as the meat of the writing and the emotional nature of the production played out. Baker did warm up half way through when she relaxed and there was a particularly strong scene where Lars’ emotional guards are broken down and most likely the actor’s too. The Sexes brought out the jealousy between the sexes and how gender weakness is applied not only on the stage but in relationships too. I was not anticipating such a thoughtful and interesting insight into the gender division between this couple, whether the gender roles were swapped or not was unimportant, it was the context of the dialogue which made the impact. The Sexes is playing until 16 August. For more information and tickets see the Etcetera Theatre’s website. Photo by Caroline Miller.