Sex Education Xplorers (SEX) review – a biology lesson for the 21st century

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I imagine the curriculum has changed since my day but, even so, I’m pretty sure not many biology lessons look like this one by Mamoru Iriguchi. With a dressing-up-box aesthetic and a naive enthusiasm, the Edinburgh performer casts the audience in the role of 14-year-old pupils at “Summerhall secondary school”. Ably assisted by Afton Moran, using hand-knitted pubic hair and clownfish costumes as visual aids, and making natty use of a computer monitor that turns real-world objects into screen animations, he takes us through the evolutionary story of reproduction. It’s an illustrated lecture that traces the journey from the earliest sea creatures to the appearance of land animals and onwards to the present day.

The show has a rough-and-ready charm, performed with more enthusiasm than subtlety, and an appropriately adolescent sense of humour. It takes a wide-eyed approach to the allure of human nudity (no other creature is turned on by nakedness) and the magic of organisms that can reproduce by severing parts of their own body.

For the most part, it’s cheery stuff, modestly entertaining and – if not exactly the Reith lectures – mildly informative. The hour-long show moves up a gear, however, in the final section when the actors consider their own sexuality and gender identity.

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Setting our current discussions about gender fluidity and transsexuality in the context of millions of years of evolutionary history, they argue there is no more reason to insist on binary definitions in human beings than there is to stop a male clownfish turning female. In this way, their own shifting identities are just a small part of a long and fascinating story.

At Summerhall, Edinburgh, until 29 August.

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