KISS ME, 4****, London, To 08 07

By Richard Bean
4Stars ****

Trafalgar Studios, Studio 2, 14 Whitehall, London SW1A 2DY to 8 July 2017.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thurs & Sat 3pm.
Runs 75 mins No interval.

TICKETS: 0844 871 7632.
Review:William Russell 13 June.


An engrossing encounter between two sad people
Originally seen at Hampstead Theatre downstairs this touching and often very funny, but ultimately rather sad play is beautifully performed by the cast of two. It set 1929, a world where men are scarce – the First World War decimated a generation – and Stephanie (Claire Lams), who lost her husband in the war, wants a baby. She is 32 and in those days time for that to happen was running out. She has a job, drives a lorry, a hangover from the war years, and lives in a bed sit to which she has invited a young man sent by a doctor she has consulted. Dr Trollope, whom we never see, arranges such visits at which hopefully the visitor impregnates his hostess. The young man, Dennis, the name he offers as it is a case of no real names, no kissing on the lips, no personal details shared, is very peculiar indeed – he seems to suffer from guilt at not having fought in the war and the creation of babies to re people the nation is his way of assuaging it. He reveals, because Stephanie likes to talk, that he has been with some 717 women and father 202 children.

The encounter between the two is beautifully handled by the two players. Lams, tough, resilient and desperate for a child, gives a splendid performance, while Ben Lloyd-Hughes as Dennis manages to be creepy, desirable, oddly blank behind the eyes, and, until the end, rather an endearing young man even if the mind boggles at all those one night stands. If there is a flaw it is that one never quite feels either of them belong to 1929. They don’t sound like people did then – but if they did could one watch them?

The evening is thoroughly rewarding and Bean amid the jokes, some of which are very good indeed, makes clear just how things have changed. There are serious points to be made. Stephanie today would not be facing the ostracism as a single parent that she does here and today’s Dennis would be rather different. The ending, as the one night stand becomes a series of meetings outwith Dr Trollope’s system and the successful pregnancy, is not a happy one and not what one expected.

Stephanie: Claire Lams.
Dennis: Ben Lloyd-Hughes

Director: Anna Ledwich.
Designer: Georgia Lowe.
Lighting: Max Haskins.
Sound: Sarah Weltman.
Associate Designer: Hannah Wolfe.
Costume Supervisor: Bex Kemp.


2017-06-14 10:15:31

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