I met actress/writer/voice-over performer Nicole Harvey in the Soho Theatre Bar yesterday afternoon. She had a broad smile on her face and had just been to a sex shop in Goodge Street to buy an inflatable man.
“He’s called Gorgeous Gavin,” she told me.
Nicole’s show Delicious & Dateless is at the Brighton Fringe this weekend and next weekend.
“You did the same show at the Edinburgh Fringe last August,” I said. “At what point since then did you think: The one thing missing from this show is an inflatable doll with an inflatable penis?”
“I‘ve completely re-written the show,” Nicole told me. “In Edinburgh, the show was very much in development. It now has a very different beginning.”
“Gorgeous Gavin appears at the beginning of the show?” I asked. “How are you going to climax at the end?”
“Well, there are boots and whips that appear later,” she said.
“And you bought Gorgeous Gavin at a shop in Goodge Street?” I asked.
“There was also a Justin Bieber doll called Just-In Beaver,” said Nicole.
“Why did you go to that shop in particular?” I asked.
“Because I had to take back the female doll I had bought – Lollipop Lolita.“
“Why did you have to take back Lollipop Lolita?”
“Because I don’t want to fuck her mouth and that’s what she is designed for.”
“Didn’t this strike you at the point you originally bought her?”
“I had just wanted her legs for my show. But her boobs were so huge she wasn’t going to work as a comedy prop – there was no way I could scrunge the boobs down. So I decided to buy Gorgeous Gavin instead.”
“Do you have a discount at this shop for bulk buying?” I asked.
Nicole ignored the question and said: “Since doing my show in Edinburgh last year, I have had a complete eye-opener and, in one part of my new show, I am commenting on this cultural shift that we’re in.”
“Cultural shift?” I asked.
“The reason I don’t have a love life,” explained Nicole, “is because I refuse to get on Tinder. That is what everyone is doing. But it’s purely pictures. It is about as superficial as it can get.
“Everyone is glued to their phone. I’ve seen pictures of guys’ hard-ons on Twitter that even 12-year-olds can see – and messages saying: Hi, I need someone to suck me off at lunchtime; I don’t mind if it’s male or female. Message me. It seems that, in this reality today, no-one will actually talk to you. Certainly no-one chats you up.”
“Which reality?” I asked.
“Actual reality,” said Nicole, “as opposed to virtual reality.”
“No-one chats you up?” I asked.
“No. Not in the real world. But they’re quite happy to be totally up-front asking for sex online with someone they’ve never met. so the world’s gone mad.”
“Well,” I said, “the whole Sex Positive thing does seem to be just an excuse for random sex with strangers.”
“With Fifty Shades of Grey,” said Nicole, “not only am I not up-to-date with fashion because I won’t go on Tinder, but I now need to be up for a spanking with a stranger – or get good at whipping – just to keep up with the trend.”
“What sort of man are you after?” I asked.
“Someone kind. Someone funny. Someone who’s emotionally mature, with not too much baggage, who’s got his shit together.”
“Well, that rules out most comedians off-stage,” I said. “Did you get any reaction from your show in Edinburgh? Your posters were really saying; I want a date!”
“My audience was mainly women wanting to tell me their Tinder horror stories.”
“Tell me more about the man in the sex shop.”
“I said to him: Whatever’s kinky is not taboo. But what is taboo is loneliness.”
“Explain?” I said.
“We are not really shocked by kinkiness any more. We’ve seen god knows how many politicians with sex scandals and 50 Shades of Grey became a mainstream movie. Anything that was kinky doesn’t really seem to be taboo any more. but to need a doll because you’re lonely… Yes, there is online dating and Tinder and it’s oh-so-easy to meet up, but what we don’t have easily any more is intimacy.”
“What type of intimacy?” I asked.
“You should get together with the man in the shop,” I suggested.
“I think he makes sex videos and wears a pig’s face.”
“Generally?” I asked.
“He used to be a singer and has a book coming out.”
“I feel a blog coming on. You’ll have to take me into the shop – Pimp a blogger. How do you know he wears a pig face?”
“There’s a back room.”
“Why were you in the back room?”
“Because I need a whip for the show as well.”
“Gorgeous Gavin, the inflatable man, was not enough for you?”
“Did you buy a whip?”
“No. They were all a bit wonky.”
“Define a wonky whip,” I asked her. “It sounds to me like an ice cream.”
“It was the way the leather was platted. It wasn’t nice and straight.”
“So for you,” I said, “it’s not to do with sex or pain but the aesthetics?”
“Oh yeah. I’m probably just going to get a horsey one, a riding crop. I ride horses.”
“I was thinking more of Zorro,” I said.
“That’s more of a lion tamer’s whip.”
“You’re smirking again.”
“I am allowed to.”
“What else does the shop have?”
“There are dolls you can get that cost thousands and thousands of pounds because they’re made of silicon and have real hair. There was a TV documentary about it and a play I saw called Companion Piece.”
“So, you’ve researched it in depth?”
“I’ve just come across things.”
After a long, thoughtful pause, I asked: “I wonder how large the demand for sex dolls is.”
“I guess,” replied Nicole, “some men don’t want a woman to answer back. But, on the other hand, plastic dolls can’t cook.”
“Swings and roundabouts,” I said.