The String Quartet’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety, 5*****, Birmingham and Tour

The String Quartet’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety: Created by Calixto Bieito


Birmingham Rep

Birmingham Rep Theatre, The House

Runs: 1h 30m, no interval, till 19 May at the Rep, then touring

Bham Rep BO: 0121 236 4455

Tour details at:

Review: Rod Dungate, 15 May 2018


Unusual, provocative, penetrating

STRING QUARTET is not a play – it’s an event, and a highly unusual one.  Two quartets feature; the first is the string quartet which performs two quartets, a Liggett and a Beethoven, and the second is four actors who offer us a series of monologues exploring the human condition through sex and anxiety.

While the monologues put up front the fragile nature of our being through the minutiae of events and actions, the music translates that tension into the music – taut, stretched, never able to come to rest.

The four actors are separated by character and content.  One describes the purity of original mankind and how we are brought low when Pandora’s box is opened.  The second explores sex and the result of sexual violence.  The third the nature of anxiety through more phobias and therapies than I’ve ever heard of.  Together these amount to a gut-wrenching examination of depression.  The fourth character, in order that we are not let off the hook by dismissing these characters as weak losers, tells us a story of a child, exampling just how random horror is and proving the points the other three are trying to make.  All performers handle their material with passion, commitment and searing clarity.

This commitment and intensity characterises the playing for the quartets.  The music is crystal clear, disturbing and played in great partnership.

Calixto Bieito has created an intriguing hybrid work and orchestrated it with sensitivity and skill. As is no doubt the intention, you cannot tell whether the music informs the spoken word or the other way round. They form a symbiotic relationship. Humanity at its most vulnerable and pained is examined through works of greass is brought into the light in a work of ephemeral beauty.  In this way, perhaps, we may be comforted.


Nick Harris, Mairead McKinley, Cathy Tyson, Miltos Yerolemou

String Quartet:

Oliver Heath, Chris Murray, Gary Pomeroy, Sara Wolstenholme

Created and Directed by: Calixto Bieito

Set Design: Calixto Bieito and Annemarie Bulla

Lighting Design: Tim Mitchell

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