Losing It: Reshaping Sex Education
CONTENT WARNING: Rape.
Beth Carr shines a spotlight on alumna Nina Lemon and her play ‘Losing It’.
Watching a musical about sex education isn’t the most usual Friday activity for students, but that is exactly the theme of the latest play by Peer Productions, written and directed by Royal Holloway alumni Nina Lemon. ‘Losing It’ follows a group of school friends as they look back on their seven years at secondary school and the questions they had about sex and relationships, as well as examining what went well and what went wrong in their love lives.
The play fits with Peer Productions’ vision “to use theatre to genuinely change young people’s lives” and is being toured around 30 local schools to tell pupils what they really want to know about sex and relationships. It was developed through working with young people in schools around the Woking area and looking at where there were gaps in their knowledge. These gaps then shaped the issues and subjects that were covered in the play. ‘Losing It’ follows Lemon’s previous work ‘The Teenage Pregnancy Project’ that responded to the high teenage pregnancy rate and toured for eight years: now that rate has dropped, it is time for a new touring production.
The first thing that is evident from the play itself is its representation of a range of characters with different sexual orientations and in many different situations. Transgender character Ash gave an impressive portrayal of a journey of a young person struggling to understand their gender, particularly through their use of the internet to gain knowledge about what they were feeling. This is just one aspect of the play where Lemon doesn’t shy away from difficult issues. One of the most harrowing scenes centred around a rape at a party, which showed clear maturity from all of the actors involved alongside realism which remained appropriate for secondary school pupils. If the staging didn’t make the issues hit home, the imagined conversations between parties certainly did, it really is a triumph of writing.
In fact, it is the words in the show that I think make the issues in the play incredibly prominent, both within dialogue and in the songs that make this production not only a play but also a musical. From the A-Z of sex education (intentionally missing out some crucial information to make a point about gaps in students’ knowledge) to a song about consent and sexual pleasure, it’s a concept that defies expectations and truly works to convey important issues to every young person who sees it. I couldn’t really draw any parallels with my own life within the performance but I still engaged with it, as I am sure many others did who had experienced more of what the play was discussing.
‘Losing It’ continues to tour local schools until the end of the school year, with a cast of 18-21 year olds coming to the end of a gap year pursuing a Level 4 qualification through working within Peer Productions. They are currently recruiting for the next cohort and the details are available here: http://www.peerproductions.co.uk/participation/actor-training/admission-information/.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of the course, it is not suitable for graduates, but if you want to support the work of the company, you can find out more here: https://localgiving.org/charity/peerproductions/project/losingit/.
Photo credit: Polly Bycroft-Brown Photography