“Peep: 69” by Leo Butler

at Pleasance Courtyard, Tuesday 21st August 2012

It’s an unfortunate necessity of the Fringe that a very small minority of shows are created for the space in which they are performed, which means nothing ever feels quite right in its venue and has to work hard to work the room, as it were. It’s great, therefore, to spend thirty minutes watching a piece written specifically for a certain space. It’s even greater when it’s about one of the few subjects we can all speak confidently about: sex.

We are escorted into small booths, asked to don headphones and sit down. For now, all we can see is ourselves in a mirror and all we can hear are pornographic noises. As soon as the lights switch on, however, we see a bright white room with a strip of mirrors around the outside, and it becomes clear we are all voyeurs on this self-contained world, sat on the perimeters gazing in, unable to see each other.

The piece is Leo Butler’s 69, which is a series of 69 short vignettes, all on the subject of sex. They range from discussions about sexuality between parents and children to glamour photography shoots. Towards the end, blue and red neon lights flash on and off in one party scene, reminiscent of night-time in Amsterdam. Actors look at us, interrogating our deepest desires and thoughts, as we know they understand us.

Whereas the abomination that is 50 Shades of Grey purports to novelise what “all women really want”, Peep actually gets into the gritty details and realities of sex, including is-that-the-right-hole scenarios and sticky leftovers on the fingers. Though attitudes are changing, we are still broadly unable to discuss sex openly in Britain, and therefore make subjects taboo which we all know intimately.

From what I understand, the other two shows in the Peep series (SexLife and Meat) are conventional narratives, and I do wonder how effective they would be in the space. 69 moves from subject to subject with ease, and harnesses the blank canvas, guiltily observational quality of the space to best effect in order to interrogate our presumptions about sex and sexuality. Finishing with a selection of sexist jokes, Butler uses an uncomfortable subject matter in an uncomfortable space to attempt to make us more comfortable when talking about sex.

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