YOUR SEXTS ARE SH*"*: OLDER BETTER LETTERS - AT THE JUNCTION
The title says it all – and signals that this would not be a show for all the family. Your Sexts Are Shit: Older Better Letters does what it says on the tin. Rachel Mars makes the simple proposition that sexual exchanges on current social media are crass and asinine compared to the steaming filth generated in an earlier age of putting actual pen to actual paper. Her show, however, has the feeling of what it was like to discover that your parents must have had sex at some point in their lives. Guess what? – even grandparents and folks from past centuries enjoyed sending extremely rude missives to their lovers.
Mars is a formidable performer with a powerful stage presence. This was no stand-up set but a real piece of theatre, albeit once clearly designed to inform its largely young audience that the word as scriptorial foreplay has been used since the invention of writing. The stage is simply constructed: on one side symbols of current sexting – a laptop, projected screen and a series of banal messages of the ‘can we have sex when you come out of the shower’ variety. On the other, the trappings of an older, slower and much more passionate world – a 35mm slide carousel sits on a creaky filing cabinet containing handwritten letters from famous flirts.
We begin with James Joyce and his vivid, no-holes-barred correspondence with his lover (and later wife) Nora Barnacle. Her responses have not survived though we can guess from James’ many surviving epistles to her that she easily equalled him in dirty talk. Mars reads each one with wicked relish. Written in 1904 and beyond the letters reveal that both revelled in scatological imagery and bodily fluid dynamics. In what was often rather beautiful erotic prose – spilling out like a Molly Bloom avalanche of words – the Joycean mind clearly got well and truly off on telling his lover what he would love to do when they next met. Joyce, as voiced by Rachel Mars, uses the whole alphabet of obscenities from C to F.
Letters follow from Mozart - to his cousin (infantile poo-obsessed naughtiness), from Marcel Proust begging his grandfather to help him overcome his masturbatory malaise by paying off his brothel debts and vividly (s)expressed notes from Eleanor Roosevelt and Gertude Stein (though not to each other). Each powerful example of well-composed eroticism was counterpointed with banal and vocab-starved sext of today. Mars also recited her own letter to an unknown lover – these were measured and powerful without losing any of the edgy language.
This was a short show (around 50 minutes) that didn’t really go anywhere but was both amusing and illuminating. She can time a line to perfection – eliciting shock or laughter by turn. Her theme, that the well-crafted letter overwhelms the hastily typed sext, was well made but did make one wonder – so what? Answers by letter (not text) please.