City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

An Argument About Sex Review

By Alex Eades - Posted on 09 November 2009

Show Details
Traverse Theatre
Untitled Projects, Traverse Theatre and Tramway
Stewart Laing ( Director & Designer), Pamala Carter (Writer)
Running time: 

“Never trust a butterfly. Anything that attractive has got to have an agenda.”

I forget where I first heard these words. Perhaps they came to me in a dream; my deep subconscious screaming at me to wake up (in more ways than one).

Wherever they came from, I found them ringing in my ear through most of this evening, chanting over and over again like mad fans at a football game.

It had nothing to do with the beautiful blonde sitting by my side (well, kinda). Or even my deeply rooted psychological problems (well...sorta). It had to do with the night's entertainment.

An Argument About Sex discusses the differences between men and women and asks whether we are genetically programmed. Men the aggressive risk-takers, women the cautious and nurturing.

With the current cash crises as the backdrop, hedge fund managers Charlie (Stuart Bowman) and Helen (Selina Boyack) try to resolve this question after an argument at an office party.

Would the global financial crisis have been as bad if women had been more involved to persuade caution?

Would many of the world's most important inventions have ever come to light if men had not been there to take a chance?

This leads to a startling revelation in the form of a secret, 18-year long sociological experiment and a once in a lifetime opportunity to observe love uncorrupted by the modern world, without nuturing.

The play is an interesting one, though by no means a great one. The ideas that are being discussed regarding men, women and the origin and development of our characteristics are pretty well understood. 

From Darwin to Dawkins, it is fairly straightforward to see how things develop and change (Dawkin’s ‘Selfish Gene’ theory is especially evident here. I highly recommend it if you are interested in understanding the evolution of human behaviour).

But the play comes across as lecturous and patronising at times. The end of the production even includes a recorded interview with the playwright and a scientist: just in case you didn’t understand what it’s all about. In truth, it is preaching to the converted. The audience deserves a little bit more credit.

The sociological experiment itself is very fun to watch, though. From the moment the audience steps into this Eden-like world and the four human guinea pigs emerge we can see how it's going to pan out.

And indeed it does. It is a spectacular setting though and witnessing such innocence is both funny and touching. Such things, however, as nature dictates, are never meant to last.

Wherever evolution lies, religion no doubt lifts its ugly head. With the ‘outsiders’ playing God and doing their upmost to try and keep love alive, we see that things inevitably change regardless.

And so, there is an underlying whisper of questioning a divine being. If there is a God, we can at least agree that He is incompetent. I say ‘He’ because surely only a man could mess up the world as much as it is today. As Charlie says, if the bible were true it would have been Adam, the aggressive risk-taker, that picked the apple from the forbidden tree.

The performances are all fine and the set is fantastic, but it is all a little too much and at the same time too little.

Nature is corrupt. And, therefore, so are we. Maybe corrupt is the wrong word. We do what we must in order to survive. Our developed minds and sense of morality have complicated matters, but our genes are in it for themselves.

A man may cheat to spread his sperm and up his chances of spreading his genes. Some display dominance and power by building massive phallic shaped buildings and firing phallic shaped (and of course, aerodynamic) missiles to blow up any ‘threat’.....or maybe they do that just to make themselves feel better. Hell, some men think they have to live up to their name. George ‘Bush’? ‘Dick’ Cheney? Look what they have done to make themselves feel good. Maybe somebody should have recommended mineral water or doing some sit ups instead of murdering people.

Women also cheat. Search around for the best sperm for the most beautiful babies. They are more cautious than men. Or sneaky as I like to call it.

This, of course, is evident throughout all of nature. The Gorilla. The house cat. The bird.... The butterfly.