The Octagon Theatre, 13 Aubrey Street, Whangarei

05/10/2022 - 05/10/2022

ONEONESIX - 116 Bank Street, Whangarei

07/10/2022 - 12/10/2022

Whangārei Fringe 2022

Production Details

Writer: Nathan Joe
Director: Damian Pullen

Love is… an experiment. They send us to school to teach us to read and write, and hopefully think, but how do we learn to do sex, love, and relationships? Trial and error, with no curriculum, teachers or certificates. And youth is the laboratory where this great experiment begins, as we attempt to turn our lust and yearning for connection into the gold of love.

It’s a risky undertaking, often carried out in unsuitable circumstances with another equally unqualified, inexperienced person, with no health and safety plan, and sometimes no PPE. And oh, the disasters – the explosions, the burns, the breakages, the back-to-the-drawing-boards – along with the occasional triumph… and these are the moments that the young characters in Like Sex bring to life so vividly.

Nathan Joe nails just how difficult it is to become a loving, sexual being, in a world where love and sex have to coexist with pornography, hookup culture, social media, religion, double standards, fear, and the rest. Like Sex is funny, sad, touching, honest – and also confronting and challenging in places.

The Octagon Theatre, Whangarei
5 October 2022
8.00 pm
$10, $15

7 – 12 October 2022
6.30 pm
$10, $15


Breeze Parker-Watt
Cody Frost
Kayla Ganley
Bruno Marotta
Lilou Herbrecht
Shayla Thomas
Josh Tyler

Maddie Fernehough

Damian Pullen

Theatre , Youth ,

1 hour


Review by Alice Fairley 06th Oct 2022

What is sex? It’s a question most of us think we know the answer to, but as the school bell rings and the actors take to the stage, we are forced to consider the possibility that the answer is more complicated than we think.

Like Sex leans into the difficult, messy parts of love, desire and intimacy. We witness the fumbling attempts of teenagers to communicate with each other while still clinging to their hard-shelled exteriors, frightened of their own vulnerability. With good reason, because the characters who do express some vulnerability are shut down and mocked by their peers. We are reminded just how cruel teenagers can be, but we also understand their cruelty comes from a place of fear and thus we are able to empathise.

So much of the play is painfully relatable—the school setting is all too familiar, the awkwardness is cringe-worthy and the challenging moments are confronting. Consent is, of course, a major theme in the play and there is some interesting work done to explore ideas around power dynamics and gender roles. It becomes clear that the old adage taught in many sex-ed classrooms—‘just say no’—doesn’t always work in real-life situations, particularly when consent is taught to young women and not to young men.

Sexuality is also a central theme and it is here we are asked to question what sex truly is. Is it a purely an anatomical and biological act? Or is it more about the emotions and feelings? Does it even need to feel good? Are sex and love the same thing? These young people already have ideas about what sex is, for better or—more often—for worse.

In a play that is, at times, quite discouraging, there are moments of much needed brevity. Humour lightens the mood, keeping the audience engaged and willing to bear witness to the darker moments. The young actors—all teenagers themselves—are what make this play wonderful to watch. This is not easy material to perform in front of a crowd, but they do it brilliantly and without any visible discomfort. Drums—perhaps a little too loud in this small space—signal the scene changes from bench to bed to couch.

Coming out of the theatre I am left thinking that a lot needs to be done to help young people confront the confusing and vulnerable realities of intimacy. The play’s ending offers up an almost-answer, but it’s clear more is needed. For the older people in the audience it is a stark reminder that not much has changed since our own high school days. Although Like Sex is not showing us anything new, it does beg the question—why is this still the reality for so many young people and what can we do to change that?


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