The string quartet’s guide to sex and anxiety

That which others hear or read of, I felt and practised myself; they get their knowledge by books, I mine by melancholising.

Robert Burton


The tempestuous relationship between sex, anxiety and music comes to a head in the remarkable new production from one of Europe’s most exciting theatre directors, Calixto Bieito, who’s also the Artistic Director of Arriaga Theatre.

Music and drama collide as the award-winning string powerhouse The Heath Quartet performs alongside an equally stunning quartet of actors to deliver an unmissable montage of melody and madness. The eight artists will take you on a journey through time to explore how our innermost thoughts battle with our artistic impulses.

Calixto has been influenced by two maverick philosophers working 400 years apart. Every age has its own affliction according to academic Byung-Chul Han and ours is ‘determined neither by bacteria nor by viruses, but by neurons’. But a little-known author named Robert Burton may have found the cure many years ago in his strange yet surprisingly relevant book, The Anatomy of Melancholy. This show doesn’t have the cure but you will feel better after seeing it.


Performed in English subtitled in Basque and Spanish

This show is recommended for people over 14 years


The String Quartet’s Guide To Sex And Anxiety contains extracts from the following works, and we would like to extend our thanks to all the authors, living and dead:


The Anatomy of Melancholy

Robert Burton


‘Our Need of Consolation is Insatiable’

Stig Dagerman

Translated by Steven Hartman

Published by Little Star #5, 2014

Original publication in Swedish as Vårt behov av tröst är omättligt…, by Husmodern, 1952


Sleet: Selected Stories

Stig Dagerman

Translated by Steven Hartman

Published by David R. Godine, 2013


My Age of Anxiety

Scott Stossel

Published by William Heinemann, 2014


‘Wanting to Die’

The Complete Poems

Anne Sexton

Published by Hougton Miffli¬¬n Company, 1981



Michel Houellebecq

Translated by Frank Wynne

Published by Vintage, 2003



Unreconciled: Poems 1991-2013

Michel Houellebecq

Translated by Gavin Bowd

Published by William Heinemann, 2017


The Noonday Demon

Andrew Solomon

Published by Vintage, 2002


The Concept of Anxiety

Søren Kierkegaard

The team

Birmingham Repertory Theatre, in association with Brighton Dome & Festival, Les Théâtres de Luxembourg and Holland Festival, presents


Created and Directed by Calixto Bieito



Nick Harris, Mairead McKinley, Cathy Tyson, Miltos Yerolemou

The Heath Quartet



Creator and director: Calixto Bieito

Set designers: Calixto Bieito and Annemarie Bulla

Costume designer: Annemarie Bulla

Lighting designer: Tim Mitchell

Assistant directors: Laure Roldan and Lucía Astigarraga

Costume supervisor: Kay Wilton

Technical designer: Ebrahim Nazier

Casting director: Gabrielle Dawes CDG

Production manager: Tomas Wright

Producer: Stuart Rogers

Assistant producer: Catherine Fowles

Company stage manager: Patricia Davenport

Deputy stage manager: Amber Curtis

Assistant stage manager: John Wonnacot


This production of The String Quartet’s Guide To Sex And Anxiety premièred in The HOUSE at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 12 May 2018