The Wonder of Sex

Thursday, 20 December, 2001


The National Theatre of Brent, who were last in the West End at the Comedy Theatre in 1998 with “Love Upon the Throne”, which was an expose of the marriage of Charles and Di, are making their Royal National Theatre debut with “The Wonder of Sex”.

Patrick Barlow as 'Desmond Olivier Dingle', and John Ramm as 'Raymond Box’ spend two and half hours exposing the ‘shocking’ secrets of sex, investigating and re-enacting several famous encounters such as Lady Chatterley and her Lover, Casanova and his many conquests, Henry VIII and his six wives, Rasputin and the Tsarina, and many more…

The name of the show “The wonder of sex” is quite misleading. Anyone expecting some adult humour with clever innuendos and shocking gags will be disappointed. The show is not really about sex but about technology going wrong. We are told that some modern technology has been installed, which controls sound, lighting, video and much more, all with the press of a remote control button. However, this all goes drastically wrong in the second act. The curtain fails to rise, wrong props are conveyed onto the stage, video clips play of their own accord all leading to ever increasing chaos, resulting in the sketches becoming more and more farcical.

I would have liked to say that this is a funny show, but sadly it is not. The material is old slapstick - seen it all before, with Desmond playing the ‘straight’ pompous guy and Raymond the nerdy silly one who keeps fluffing his lines, which becomes very tiring as the show goes on. Each scene has the same format - one of them impersonates a woman and the other some famous paramour, with silly things happening as everything goes wrong the material is so thin it calls upon all the comic resources of these two competent comics to salvage something. But as they wrote the show, possibly in only one afternoon, they have only themselves to blame.

There is no mistaking the quality of the actors’ performances. They are both funny with great timing and delivery. They are particularly good when interacting with the audience. In fact, it is this interaction that is the best part of the show because without it the show would have been embarrassingly bad.

I may not have liked it but it has received reasonable notices from the popular press..... RACHEL HALLIBURTON for THE EVENING STANDARD says, " Barlow and Ramm rise to the challenge of dealing with the Lyttelton space but their humour needs more variety to seduce the audience into laughter. " BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, "The company’s malapropisms, which mainly come in solemn squawks from the gloriously inept Box, are usually good fun, but I did wonder if it wasn’t getting over-reliant on what one might call malaprops." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH enjoyed the show saying , "there are many moments of comic bliss" and that it is "delightful" show. PAUL TAYLOR for THE INDEPENDENT says, "Still, if this is not premier cru Brent, it's miles more potable than most Christmas plonk." JAMES INVERNE for THE LONDON METRO says, "The famous comedy duo have made their names playing small venues such as the Bush and they just don't suit the vast Lyttelton."

It is a tedious and repetitive, and not so funny show that many patrons will be disappointed with.

(Darren Dalglish)

Links to full reviews from newspapers...

The Times
The Daily Telegraph
The Independent

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