Review: The Big O, King’s Head Theatre

Bold in its ambition but a little lacking in execution, The Big O is playing at the King’s Head Theatre

“Welcome to Lesson 1 – Getting to know you
You being your vulva”

There’s a whacking amount of ambition at the heart of Kim Cormack’s The Big O, conceived as a UK-wide two-part project, currently in residence at the King’s Head Theatre. Drawing from Cormack’s own experiences, the play aims to start an “overdue and essential conversation” about the female orgasm or lack thereof, folding in ideas about careleavers, consent and mental health, as well as addressing towards sex and relationships in contemporary Britain.

It certainly tries hard but with such a wide scope, it is considerably more successful in some areas than others. Lucy’s diagnosis of the condition anorgasmia leads her into a personal odyssey to explore, explain and hopefully redefine her relationship to sex and to connecting with others. For as PTSD is discovered and its associated trauma delved into, the scale of these issues seems overwhelming, both for her and for the audience.

The strongest thread in The Big O is the developing relationship between Lucy (a committed Jade Dowsett Roberts) and her psychosexual therapist Dinah (an excellent Anna Bernard), probing away at the past and the present to peel back the layers of problematic encounters with men, both then and now. The bed at the heart of director Lotte Ruth Johnson’s production signifies its importance but crucially, Cormack doesn’t seek to absolve Lucy from her bad decision-making.

Elsewhere though, there’s diversion into comedy that don’t really land, Lucy hanging out with friends and getting down to some frank girltalk. You can see the intent here, in normalising these kinds of conversations which are too rarely seen in our culture, especially compared to similar ones between groups of male characters, but dramatically here they just don’t fit. Some of the more adventurous choices are a bit hit and miss too – sex toys as gameshow prizes just baffle, but the lessons from folklore beguile.

Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Hannah Kelly Photography
The Big O is booking at King’s Head Theatre until 3rd June

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