First Episode explores the changing attitudes of sexuality through a brilliant depiction of lust and infatuation in the play.
It follows the lives of four decadent, affluent men at Oxford University. Bertie’s (Alex Hope) eccentric portrayal of a sexually frigid man with high moral values resonate the emotional and sexual repression of the nineteenth century. His hyperactive, unfocused attention and comical relationship with latent sexual objects gives a sweet, light-hearted element to the play. However, his ridiculous reaction to sexual matters conversely makes it hard to take his character or his moral ideals seriously.
Tony (Gavin Fowler), David (Philip Labey) and Philip (Adam Buchanan) challenge this idea of sexual morality through their licentious behaviour and disparaging attitude towards women. Tony’s depiction of the modern man living in excess through gambling and drinking reveals a darker side of love and modernity. His superfluous feeling for the fallen film star, Margot, is an immediate indication that his decadent lifestyle has distorted his view of love and turned it into infatuation. The fact that he quickly falls out of love suggests that too much sexual freedom has some effect on his sensitive capacity. This can only mean that something deep is lost and as a result, true love suffers in the guise of freedom.
Margot (Caroline Langrishe) is very graceful in the way she endures her pain and rejection. She seems to have become too real, too human and therefore undesirable since she is no longer a figment of his fantasy. Joan’s (Molly Hanson) portrayal of a foolish, air head who wants sexual freedom but at the same time needs respect give rise to the challenges of the modern woman who also want the same sexual needs as men. The fact that she marries Bertie suggests that respect is still a virtue and that moral values must not be forgotten for the coexistence of man and woman in modern society.