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The Geneva Convention of Human F**Ks

What happened abroad stays abroad, or at least that appears to be the intention of a trio of lads – Liam (Cerys Phillips), Peter (Marina O’Shea) and Michael (Estelle Buckridge) – except they perceive people have an inkling of what goes on every time they leave their home and working lives behind for a week or two and enjoy doing whatever they want to do. It’s also a regular topic of conversation in the run-up to their time away, and it’s almost inevitable that there’s much to talk about in the weeks following their return to Blighty. Peter is also one of those people who strikes while the iron is hot, with ideas being presented to the others for their next adventure on the return flight of their current one.

Geneva - Photo credit Primrose Bigwood
Geneva – Photo credit Primrose Bigwood

Thinking about it, there aren’t many plays about sex tourism out there, and no others immediately come to my mind. Bearing in mind these lads go on an annual excursion abroad – not, it would appear, to the same places – the ethical and moral issues of paid sexual activity are, assuming they were considered at all, resolved. They have themselves a good time, and they contribute to the local economy wherever they go. Not everything is bliss, however – that wouldn’t make for gripping theatre, would it? – and occasional arguments about, say, the environmental impact of different modes of transport, or whether certain sex workers were old enough to consent in the first place, inflict ultimately superficial damage to a three-fold cord that is not easily broken.

The use of a female cast to portray alpha male characters is an intriguing choice, and while slightly odd to begin with, is something one quickly gets used to. Perhaps patrons who might otherwise have been triggered by a male cast displaying such toxic behaviours are better able to follow the storyline without thoughts of past experiences clouding their concentration. The production relies heavily on the art of storytelling, embellished with some music and sound effects, largely but not entirely confined to scene changes, with chairs being moved about (or out of the way). But it was always clear where any given scene was set.

These are, in many ways, thoroughly dislikeable characters, who display attitudes and thought processes that are indeed still held by some men these days – the sort of people who are unlikely to go to the theatre, and if they did, it would be a surprise if they saw a show like this one. Women are seen as objects to be conquered, and the consequences of the men’s ventures are plausibly varied, and from the outside looking in, often a source of humour in the show. This is a production that knows when to describe what happened and when to dramatize it – there are no pants-down demonstrations here – and while it is not always an easy watch, it has plenty of observances about satisfying seemingly bottomless sexual desires at almost any cost. It’s as revelatory as much as it is convincing.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

This captivating story unfolds just before the outbreak of COVID-19, introducing us to Michael, Liam, and Peter as they delve into a world of brothels, encounters with prostitutes, and the discovery of unconventional sexual experiences. Amidst their exploits, the trio grapples with complex ethical dilemmas, including the contentious topics of prostitution, the #MeToo movement, sex trafficking, and even global warming.

Liam – played by Cerys Phillips
Michael – played by Estelle Buckridge
Peter – played by Marina O’Shea
Written and directed by Charlie Whitworth.

The Geneva Convention of Human F**Ks
3 September 18:00

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