About as sexy as my granny's underpants

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The Independent Culture

An artist perches over a camera. The images it records are projected onto a cinema screen in front of us. Slowly, globules of shit drop onto the camera. Soon, it is covered. XXX has begun.

An artist perches over a camera. The images it records are projected onto a cinema screen in front of us. Slowly, globules of shit drop onto the camera. Seen, it is covered. XXX has begun.

"Go and write a libertarian defence of this play,'' The Independent's news desk suggested. And I intended to. We are too hung up about sex in this country, as the hysterical reaction of the Evening Standard to this play has shown. This production is about as sexy as your granny's underpants and only the most repressed 13-year-old boy (or a Daily Mail columnist) could be roused to anger.

It offers an amusing commentary about our repression. A woman places a pen in her vagina and writes on an electronic screen: "A better world is possible". Later, it is announced that pheromones have been sprayed into the audience and we should feel free to grope the person next to us. The toying with our attitudes to sex is XXX's strongest point.

It is a sign of the benevolent effect that internet porn has had on my generation that I was unshocked. Double penetration, anal sex and bisexuality are part of a range of acceptable leisure activities and nothing more. If people are to enact them on stage and other people want to pay to watch, that's fine. Anyone who objects should buy a ticket for My Fair Lady.

However, instead of just trying to erode silly hang-ups about sex, XXX degenerates into a bonfire of taboos. Offensive nonsense on paedophilia and bestiality being acceptable undermines any reasonable argument. The show's attack on our "hypocritical morals'' is extended to claims that are plainly absurd.

XXX is most problematic in its attitude towards women. Just about the only sexual taboo it doesn't challenge is the idea that sex is something women do to pleasure men. This is a straight man's play, even if the men half-heartedly grope each other.

The best thing that can be said about this work is that, now that these taboos are broken on the London stage, an interactive play might be created with these new freedoms.

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