by Michael Kingsbury.
Park Theatre (Park 200) Clifton Terrace Finsbury Park N4 3JP To 14 February 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Run s 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7870 6876.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 January.
Not theatrical caviar, but generally pleasing.
Critics have hurled thunderbolts; a Saturday night audience whooped with delight, they had, mostly, enjoyed it so much. Michael Kingsbury’s new comedy, with menaces, seems to be running successfully through critical snubs and positive word-of-mouth.
Perhaps there’s a typo in the title: contact.con would sum it up better. However the spouse-swapping evening was arranged, there’s not a computer in sight. But, picking-up the ‘comedy’ and ‘menace’ above; we know where they’ve been joined before. There’s very little of the Harold Pinter here, however, more a metropolitan Willy Russell – or, seeing the amount of sex bubbling under the characters and artfully expressed in Ian Brown’s reliable production without excessive removal of clothing – the late Mike Stott, whose 1975 Funny Peculiar frankly depicted sex-desire among the middle-classes.
Kingsbury’s play, though, darkens in tone after the interval, when earlier hints all is not as it appears overtake the drama, which seems about to develop into something truly sinister, with control of the handsome property effectively slipping away. There are plenty of possibilities, but the action lands on none of them.
There are inconsistencies; the easy distinction between cultured, fastidious Matthew and Naomi, and their rough-and-ready visitors is disturbed by Ryan’s moments of well-articulated knowledge. This might be deliberately prepared, but is remarkably apposite if so. Later, Ryan seems to be turning the house into his own, but it’s not clear, and his prepared advances are confounded by the uncertainty in his character. Similarly, Kelly’s signs of intelligent responsibility are undercut by the laid-on loudness in clothing and manner to which such characters are regularly subjected on stage as an alternative to having an inner life.
If Kelly and Ryan’s motives are mysterious till they speak them aloud, that places audiences in a similar position to their hosts, who are viewed in greater depth. The quartet of actors do their best all round, but the drama of character focuses increasingly on the more deeply-conceived Matthew, whom Jason Durr provides with both apparent strength and inner uncertainty, and Naomi, who Tanya Franks provides with an increasing disillusion which draws the action towards a different territory.
Matthew: Jason Durr.
Naomi: Tanya Franks.
Ryan: Ralph Aiken.
Kelly: Charlie Brooks.
Director: Ian Brown.
Designer: Janet Bird.
Lighting: Neill Brinkworth.
Sound: David Gregory.