Everybody has a story and the All The Sex I’ve Ever Had panelists, aged 65 years and over, are proof that you should never judge a book by its cover! From stories of scandalous love affairs to heart-felt moments of first-love, Mammalian Diving Reflex’s latest production takes audiences through the lives of six individuals. Get ready to howl with laughter, shed a few tears, and be inspired, because All The Sex I’ve Ever Had is a triumph!

It goes without saying that of all of the events in this year’s Freedom Festival line-up, the one that has been responsible for the most conversations in the head office is Mammalian Driving Reflex’s All The Sex I’ve Ever Had. The Canadian production company has been running the show for over 10 years, with participants from all over the world being a part of the panel and sharing their life stories. The festival team couldn’t wait to welcome the company to Hull, and last night’s performance received a standing ovation, leaving the audience spell-bound by the fascinating memories explored by the panelists.

It’s maybe not one to bring your parents along to, as I discovered, since questions posed to spectators by the participants comprised, “How many of you have had sex in a public space? And how many of you have ever cheated on a partner?” And a word of warning - shyness and reluctance only attracts the presenters more, and will hand audience members a microphone in a heart-beat so they can share their tales too. There’s no hiding once a hand goes up, but as always with intimate shows like this, what is said in the event room must stay in the event room. In this way, the presenters deserve as much credit as the individuals that have volunteered to be a part of the panel, as their enthusiasm and audience interaction is completely unmatched!

In an hour and a half, we’re transported from the 1940s all the way to 2022 and even beyond, as the volunteers reflect on their lives but also discuss their future aspirations. Accompanied by the music of each era, each decade is marked with a change in lighting and various props, including a huge disco ball above the seating area. It’s kind of like a cabaret, except there are no feather-bowers, or dancers flaunting extravagant poses, only tales of first-times, romantic hardship, and coming of age. Even for a 21-year-old, who may argue that she has lived and has a story to tell, I realised that life doesn’t just slow down once a person reaches their 30s - no! These individuals certainly have experienced the rich tapestry that life has to offer, and are still learning well into their old age!

“It’s just been such a liberating experience, and you come away from it feeling so empowered!” says one of the participants, Gerri, who was born and raised in Hull and is a proud member of the panel. She couldn’t be more right, as many would agree it takes an immense amount of strength, belief, and self-confidence to sit before a crowd of strangers and reveal the most intimate stories you have to tell. In fact, one of the original participants, at the first previews of the show back in 2010, has now become an ambassador for Mammalian’s production and is just as passionate about the show’s impact as she was when she first volunteered years ago! Despite the abundance of light-hearted discussions on sex, there is also a fair-share of darker moments explored throughout the show - but what is life without its periods of joy and hardship?

A show that will exceed audiences’ expectations and leave them with a full-heart, Mammalian’s event is without a doubt one of the best hidden gems that Freedom Festival has to offer this year! We couldn’t be luckier to have the production as part of our vibrant line-up, and we urge festival-goers to jump out of their comfort zone and see the show. Extremely moving, hilarious at times, and destined to be a hit with every crowd that watches, All The Sex I’ve Ever Had is a glorious celebration of sex, self-discovery, and ultimately what it is to be human.

Words by Lucy Tessier

Images by Lucy Tessier