Sex is a taboo subject. A hangover from our Victorian sensibilities where certain things were spoken of and others were never mentioned for fear of social ostracism, there is still a lot of reticence when it comes to any kind of in depth discussion about sex. Though many of us, particularly in the LGBTQIA+ community, have grown more sex positive in the discussions around intimacy and bodily autonomy, there still remains a general sense of unease around such talk in wider society – especially when it comes to discussions about sexual pleasure for female presenting bodies. The cultural mythology around the difficulty of achieving an orgasm for those with a vagina and a clitoris has become something of a cheap joke within heteronormative society, and within that discourse, there is an inherent narrative about how sexual gratification for women and people with vaginas is devalued. This, unfortunately, often goes hand in hand with trauma around sex as any sort of hierarchy around the valuation of such an intimate act will inevitably breed violence and abuse. It is an incredibly difficult web to untangle, but Raina Greifer’s solo show, MANIC, delves into the subject with sensitivity and humour.
Written and performed by Greifer, and directed by Pippa Thornton, MANIC is a hybrid of spoken word poetry, surreal cabaret-style sequences and Google Slide art. It explores Greifer’s own journey with their sexuality and relationship with sex through the lens of American feminist scholar, Catharine MacKinnon’s discourse around sexual equality. This autobiographical piece frames itself in three acts, bookmarked by Greider’s interactions with three male sexual partners – each represented by hilariously bizarre puppets. As each of these historical relationships unfold, the inequalities of these sexual and romantic encounters are laid bare, and the pain of what is termed “bad sex” – i.e. unequal, one-sided domains of pleasure with greyscale blurred lines of consent – becomes ever more apparent.
This is a powerfully personal piece of theatre, and one that handles the vulnerability of its narrative with a self-aware assuredness. Raina Greifer’s performance is one of raw honesty and awkward humour; it’s the perfect blend of relatable comedy and razor sharp candor of Generation Z. The way in which Greifer’s writing, along with precise choreography from Cici Noir, undercuts moments of surreal comedy with painfully exposing internal revelations is masterful. While the narrative is intensely individual to the show’s writer-performer, it undoubtedly strikes a chord with anyone who has been raised a woman who is attracted to men. It is a show that should be experienced by all; provocative in its narrative and framing, but beautifully realised by its creator. A challenging and multifaceted show with a figure of raw talent at its heart.