3 stars ***
Gilded Balloon (Venue 14)
IF THERE were a polite word for anal intercourse, I would use it now. But there is no such word; and since this particular sensual experience is the whole subject of Spanish actress Isabelle Stoffel’s remarkable one-hour monologue, based on an erotic memoir by dancer and writer Toni Bentley, it’s best to be clear from the outset about what’s on the menu, as Stoffel leads us through the story of a young woman’s sexual life, from early experimentation and brief marriage, to the wilder shores of sexual pleasure.
What’s interesting about Stoffel’s monologue, though, is that unlike many of the other shows in Edinburgh that dwell on what seems to be the sexual experiment of choice among would-be cool Fringe-goers, this sustained piece of writing belongs to the time-honoured tradition of French intellectual erotica, reaching back to De Sade; and actually tries to offer some analysis of why people might be drawn to this experience, as a physical and emotional journey. For British audiences, there’s a distinct sense of mixed messages, as Stoffel delivers a lecture on the joys of sexual adventure one minute, and then whips off most of her clothes and offers a kind of solo live sex show the next. Whatever you make of the show’s text, though, it has plenty of style, some fine rose-coloured lighting and design, and an absolutely classic De-Sade-style narrative arc, from initiation to ecstatic experimentation to bleak emotional crisis, and then to gradual resolution.