Sam Potter is the writer of the provocative and unflinching play The Unicorn, about one woman’s obsessive sexual behaviour, as she tries to find the balance between her insatiable sexual drive and what she thinks society expects of her. But what need is she really trying to fill?
After her life takes an unexpected turn, Andrea finds herself overwhelmed by feelings of frustration and depression. She attempts to combat her loneliness through casual sex, but what starts as a distraction, soon becomes a compulsion and she progresses from serial dating to anonymous sex parties as her life slowly starts spiralling out of control.
Sam Potter’s searing new play is a darkly comic and evocative portrait of a woman driven to extremes in this vivid examination of obsession, desire and despair.
The Unicorn is at Arcola Theatre 7th-24th June 2023.
The Unicorn is coming to the Arcola Theatre, how would you describe this play?
The Unicorn is a monologue about compulsive sexual behaviour. It is told from the point of view of Andrea, a young woman who has been through a series of mini traumas in her life; she’s been fired from her job and her long term relationship has ended. She’s lost and looking for connection, so she starts exploring her sexuality. At first everything appears to be fun and great but because the connections she’s making are filling such a deep need within her, things start to get out of control.
What first inspired you to write it?
The idea initially came from an anonymous article that I read in a magazine about a young woman who had suffered from sex addiction for a period of her life. As soon as I read it, I knew I wanted to write something about it; sex and relationships are endlessly fascinating subjects to me and I wanted to understand more about compulsive sexual behaviour, particularly as I felt it wasn’t something that I’d seen explored onstage before. The idea sort of sat up in my head for a year or so, until I was commissioned by the North Wall in Oxford to write a short play for the Alchymy Festival in 2019.
What did you find most challenging about writing The Unicorn?
Practically, the most challenging thing about writing this play, was that I wrote most of it during the pandemic when sex parties were well and truly off! Emotionally, the hardest thing was resisting the temptation to judge or ‘other’ my character.
How have you found people react when you tell them you’ve written a play about sex?
I get very mixed reactions. A lot of people make jokes, obviously, and I’ve had a few ‘oy oys’ or winks. (My husband actually gets more of that than me. He seems to be taking the flack on that front.) I’ve had a few people tell me that the play really spoke to them, which has obviously been lovely to hear. The reaction I never expect is disapproval, but I do get that sometimes as well.
What’s changed since the play first premiered in Edinburgh?
The play has changed so much since Edinburgh. I was happy with the play I had written last year, but I felt I hadn’t gone as far as I wanted to with the script. I hadn’t delved as deep as I needed to and so I went back in and did another draft in the autumn and then I’ve had a new director for the tour who has really managed to pull everything I was trying to explore together. He’s been really wonderful to work with and although it was hard to push myself, I’m so glad I went the extra mile with it.
What would you say to anyone thinking about booking to see The Unicorn?
Well, it has been my experience this year that theatre audiences still aren’t back to normal. People have stopped going out as much as they used to, and so I would say come and remind yourself what an amazing experience it is to watch a story, with other people, in the dark, in a community. Come and have a laugh and maybe a little cry, in that charged, spiritual, intense, amazing atmosphere that only theatre can provide.