The Coolidge Effect at Wonder Fools Online
The Coolidge effect is a phenomenon which asserts that in sexual intercourse it is variety, rather than individual characteristics, which will increase an individual’s drive. It was first discovered when a male rat was vastly more active after being introduced to a new female each day, rather than being in contact with the same one over the course of several days. Based on that, Wonder Fools’ The Coolidge Effect raises the question: what will the results of this phenomenon be now that we have access to an unlimited variety of pornographic material online?
It’s an important question to ask, though this show doesn’t necessarily provide many answers. It originally toured across the UK throughout 2016-19 and is now available as an audio play as a way of tackling the lack of access to theatres resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic. Blending storytelling, poetry and science, it seeks to open a wider discussion about pornography. The show does have its fair share of flaws, but it’s still an interesting take on a seldomly discussed subject.
Most of the production is done extremely well. The sound effects and music choices are nice; the overall quality is excellent; and the “plot” is narrated very charismatically and at a good pace, ensuring that it remains engaging throughout. We also receive a lot of interesting information – such as the fact that more people visit porn sites than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined, or that the average age of a boy’s first exposure to porn is 12 years of age.
But not all of the elements are equally successful. The storytelling – which follows Gary, a porn addict, and his son George, who experiences porn for the first time – is done well and to good dramatic effect, but the “poetic” segments are rather cumbersome and take the audience out of the action without adding much. A lot of the statistics aren’t woven into the narrative at all and demonstrate too much telling without showing; at other points, a lot of facts are asserted and need to be explored in greater detail.
Ultimately, it all feels too rough around the edges. It’s fair enough to say that the conversation should start here, but The Coolidge Effect doesn’t do much else besides: we have a few numbers and many assertions, but the piece doesn’t really demonstrate the urgency or wider consequences for society – let alone pose solutions.
Photo: Beth Chalmers
The Coolidge Effect is available to stream online from 28th July until 31st October 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.