“This play is a delight.”
Yes it was. This play is a delight. Much of its charm comes from the clever surprises and twists in the internal monologues of the two protagonists (played by Isobel Lewis and Chris Pope) during their one-night stand, which itself wavers between passion and cold, hilarious reality. The rest comes from the whip-smart writing, rollicking pace, and excellent individual performances all around. By the time its 60 minutes are up, Bareback Productions’ first Edinburgh Fringe venture will have made you smile, think, empathise, sympathise, and laugh out loud like a freight train.
Some plays about sex are lazy, cruel, and invariably ineffective. was it good for you?resists most adolescent urges to shame the participants in this dramatised tryst, and rather opts to earnestly ridicule the silliest impulses in all young lovemakers. During this show almost every sexual and behavioural “step” of a night together is presented, discussed, picked apart, and painfully explained, to glorious comedic effect, and anyone with sexual experience will be able to sympathise with some aspect of it, from the inner musings of what the other person is really thinking/enjoying, to the manic preparations involved in making oneself appear and perform just right for the upcoming act.
In order to aid such a discussion and diagnosis, playwrights Rosie Harris and Luke Smith include a range of advisors, gurus, and confidantes in shifting forms to comment on and represent the protagonists’ psychologies surrounding sex. These include Clint Eastwood (played by Chrisitan Hinrichsen, whose timing, for the most part, was spot-on), and Sharon Stone in full Basic Instinct mode (played by Suzy Oxenham, a truly gifted performer and a highlight of the show). To reveal any more of the special guests would detract from the utter glee of the surprise: Isaac’s third visitor and the girl’s second, in particular, are strokes of genius. You’ll know what I mean when you see it.
What particularly charms about was it good for you? is that the writing is strong but sincere, with clever references and legitimate points among its spot-on but somewhat sillier asides. A Tim Curry lookalike (Fergus Macphee, whose audience interaction is genuinely delightful) may compare sex to a pizza, with politeness as the bread base and all the kinks and depravities as the naughty toppings, but the play also dives much deeper in its analogies and observations. Without giving too much away, there is more than meets the eye between the performers, and the script does very well when peeling back more of the sexual reality than we’d think of as funny.
To Chris Pope’s credit, his performance as Isaac is so genuinely charming (once it grows on you) that even when his cluelessness interrupts serious revelations it feels neither jarring nor inappropriate. Of course Isaac would be comparing his thrusts to jazz music and calling himself “Cunnemingus,” (a joke at which I laughed probably too loudly) because was it good for you? does not sacrifice its realistic take on what men and women really think during sex at any cost. Shaving, peeing, manual technique, and lube are discussed at great length, and it is this attention to detail that truly elevates the experience.
Dutifully representing the physical actions going on throughout the internal monologues, silly and otherwise, are Jack Harrison and Emily Tandy, who commendably act as shadow performers at the back of the stage. While this aspect is hilarious on its own, it is hard to take one’s eyes off Lewis’s fantastic facial expressions in the foreground as she comments on Isaac’s techniques, and Pope’s skittish overthinking and under-thinking at every turn.
It has to be said, the play and its mannerisms do work best as a nudge-nudge wink-wink within British — very British — society, and I am sure Americans and others will, at best, come out understanding a few more British tics about these things that hadn’t occurred to them before, and at worst not really understand what all the fuss was about. This is not to say the play is inaccessible; was it good for you? may sound like it was written by somewhat smart-Alec upper-middle class Britons, but it is, commendably, for everyone.
Reviewer: Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller