Ad Libido review – taking female pleasure into her own hands

Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh
Fran Bushe’s comedy uses glitter and smart songs to advocate better understanding of sex for women

Fran Bushe wants to fix sex. Armed with glitter, songs and a diagram of her vulva, she’s on a mission to kickstart her own libido and change how we think and talk about female pleasure – and its opposite – in the bedroom. After trying and failing to enjoy sex for 15 years and facing a parade of unhelpful advice from GPs, Bushe is taking matters into her own hands.

Though, of course, it’s not that simple. Bushe wants a quick fix, a happy ending, but much of her solo show is about how life – and sex – don’t work that way. At least not in the sexually unequal society we still live in. Ad Libido is unapologetically personal, to the extent of including intimate snippets from Bushe’s teenage diary, yet it also lightly suggests the external pressures that many women feel when making decisions about sex. Often throughout Bushe’s quest it becomes as much about soothing the feelings of male partners as trying to make sex pleasurable for herself.

All of this is surprisingly funny. There are hints of Bryony Kimmings’ solo work in the irreverent approach to exposing subject matter, though Bushe also injects the piece with her own distinct brand of humour, from dolphin gags to talking vaginas. The DIY charm of the glitter curtains and overhead projector belies the sophistication of the show’s construction, which makes serious points using silly means. This is perhaps clearest in the songs, which combine knowing absurdity with smart and audacious rhymes. Bushe’s sharp musical skewering of a male friend’s offer to cure her with his sexual prowess is particularly entertaining.

In a world in which studies on viagra vastly outnumber research into female sexual dysfunction and two thirds of heterosexual women report being sexually unsatisfied, this is implicitly a campaigning piece. Bushe wants all of us – women and men – to start talking honestly about what happens between the sheets. We as a culture might be finally beginning to have more sophisticated conversations about consent, but Ad Libido makes it clear that we need to go further.


Catherine Love

The GuardianTramp

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