THE TALK Let’s talk about sex

The Talk is a terribly undomesticated evening based on real conversations Mish Grigor recorded with her own family. An awkwardly intimate and hilarious confession about sex, sexuality and love, it’s participatory theatre at it’s most explicit, unapologetic best. SCOTT AITKEN chats with the creator and performer about her feelings about the show four years on, the motivation behind creating it and the most awkward sex stories she has encountered along the way. The Talk is on at Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts from January 22-24 at 9pm and January 25 at 8pm, get more info and tickets here.

Four years ago you started working on The Talk which involved recording pretty frank conversations with your family in which you tried to have an honest discussion with them about sex. Did you find out some things about your family members that surprised you or maybe that you didn’t want to know?

I think it’s the small things that surprise you. I found out that my dad models his romantic self on Ridge from The Bold and The Beautiful. I never knew he watched any soapies, and it feels weird to imagine him spending his weekday afternoons tuning into Channel Ten for some love life inspiration – but there you go.

Some people probably couldn’t think of many things they’d like to do less than this. What motivated you to do this and build a show around it?

I think as an artist its easy to get obsessed with something that makes you feel weird, or things that you don’t understand. So when there is a silence or an awkwardness around an issue, it can get to you, become an itch that you want to scratch. There was one big conversation about sex with my family a few years ago that set me off – like I became aware of the mystery all of a sudden.

I imagine you might have done a bit of research on other’s experiences talking about sex with their families. What are the funniest and most awkward stories you’ve come across?

At this stage I don’t need to do research, because people rush to tell me their own strange stories after the show. Mostly it’s about walking in on parents having sex, that is surprisingly common. And they hardly ever admit it – so many people have told me how confused they were as children about their parents “liking wrestling in their bed” or “looking for a ring that mum dropped after she got out of the shower”, or my personal favourite, “this is how we do yoga”. Surely that is going to lead to some embarrassing interactions when that child enters their first downward dog…

But ultimately I’m sure there is good that comes out of it. Has that been your experience? 

Well it’s not really ‘good’ or ‘bad’, or I don’t really think of it that way. Having the conversations with my family was awkward and funny and weird and sometimes really lovely and honest – and all of that is in the show. But I’m not on a campaign to change the world or to convince other people to shift their relationships with their family. It’s more that I want to share my fascination with what is not said, or to laugh together about how strange and shy we are, even as adults. We can talk about the Kardashian’s private lives all day but when I try to talk with my dad about a one-night stand, suddenly I feel 13 years old again, I just want him to leave me alone so I can write about it in my ‘Sweet Valley High’ brand diary.

You usually bring people from the audience on-stage to perform some of the material you recorded with your family. What’s the best and the worst audience interaction you’ve had?

Well, I don’t think people who come to your show owe you a performance. I ask people to read the interviews, but people often say no, they don’t want to read. And that is totally fine, it doesn’t ruin the show, and I can always ask the next person. What usually happens is that the person reading starts looking ahead and laughing at something my family has said, and they can’t speak because they are giggling too much… that’s fine, that is all part of the fun.

And what do you hope people get out of the show, other than some good old laughs of course? 

I think most people are watching me talk about my family, but they are thinking about their own families. They are remembering learning about sex, or when they first started dating, or when they first realised their parents are sexual beings… it’s so weird and uncomfortable, and yet we’ve all got some version of the story I’m telling.