All the Sex I Ever Had

Theatre, Performance art
All The Sex I've Ever Had 2017 Melbourne Festival production image 01 photo credit Lucia Eggenhoffer
Photograph: Lucia Eggenhoffer

Think young people do sex better? Think again, in this live storytelling show in which locals over 65 share true stories from their sex lives

Canadian company Mammalian Diving Reflex describe their remit as "entertainment for the end of the world." Their last show in Melbourne was Haircuts by Children (featuring ten-year-olds giving adults hair cuts) and their forthcoming show involves local over-65s talking about their sex lives. And yes, we will sit for two hours and listen to our (no doubt) more experienced elders talk about sex.

Named after a survival reflex in mammals, Mammalian Diving Reflex are on a mission to create shows that trigger the best in human behaviour. In their company statement, they write: "We trust we’ll get through this century in one piece, we just have to get out of the way and let our natural tendencies of generosity unlock and redistribute the world’s abundance." We like the cut of their jib.

Check out our Melbourne Festival 2017 highlights hit list.

Time Out Sydney's 4-star review of the Sydney Festival 2015 season:

It looked a lot like this would be Sydney Festival’s most titillating show, and that suspicion was not allayed when the audience was plied with wine (a free glass for every ticket holder) and asked to stand and repeat a collective oath not to repeat what they heard in the room that night. 

So we weren’t prepared for how emotional this two-hour journey across six sex lives would be.(Though given the mission statement of Canadian company Mammalian Diving Reflex, we probably should have twigged to it).

Selected from respondents to a public call-out, the six people on stage (Paul, Judith, Ronaldo, Jennie, Liz and Peter) ranged from 63 to 73, and were born in Scotland, Sri Lanka and Australia. Two men identified as gay, one of them with a bisexual history. Starting from 1942, and counting down the years to 2016, the show took us through their birth stories, childhood sexual experiences, and highlights from the subsequent years of dating, fucking, loving and losing.

Inevitably, as an audience member, you splice your own experiences into this narrative – which is part of the fun, and part of the emotional payload of the production.

But members of the Mammalian Diving Reflex company also stop along the way to allow their performers to ask questions of the audience (Did you ever rub yourself against an inanimate object as a child? Has a partner ever stolen from you?) and then give the mic over to individual audience members to respond. Genuinely no two nights of this show could be the same. More importantly, it creates a real sense of community and dialogue in the room. Shit gets rowdy, frankly.

In the end, it felt a bit like all these stories became one big story – and all sexual, romantic and relationship norms were gradually elided in favour of a big tapestry of messy life experience. And perhaps for this reason, we can overlook the fact that, in this Sydney-specific production, there were no gay or bisexual women (let alone transgender) and only one person of colour. 

By: Dee Jefferson