by Simon Paisley Day.
Hampstead Theatre Eton Avenue Swiss Cottage NW3 3EU To 23 November 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed 2.30pm Sat 3pm.
Audio-described 9 Nov 3pm (+ Touch Tour 1.30pm).
Captioned 12 Nov (+ Transcribed Post-show Discussion).
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7722 9301.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 October.
A shot at showing metropolitan madness in rural Wales.
From the opening, where Tamzin Outhwaite’s Briony fiddles fretfully with her breasts and Barnaby Kay enters fussily as her husband Keith, it’s clear this is a farce – as if Feydeau were trying-out a plot about three metropolitan couples weekending in a Welsh farm cottage.
The action swims in bodily fluids. Mother’s milk courses throughout, largely in a jar, its potential consumption dangling before us. Blood and urine tag along. Sperm gets a mention. Sex, so energetically sought, seems risible in its observed consequences.
Instead of a Feydeau central act hotel, several characters visit an early-hours rave. First is teenage Tabby, niece of the forceful Serena, who with tall, militaristic Charles, is someone Briony and Keith did not know would be there, and do not welcome.
Bel Powley presents a nauseatingly assured Tabby, her streetwise bravado revealed by daylight as the assurance engendered by an affluent family. It’s her action during the night, involving sex and a disabled boy, which engenders the notched-up tension of the finale as morality enters the hedonistic scene with Ifan Huw Dafydd’s outraged farmer father, his anger a judgment on them all.
But the cause of it is merely reported, unlike Lee Hall’s Cooking with Elvis, which shows a sexual act involving someone severely disabled.
In writing and playing, Briony and Keith have a reality at odds with the comic certainties of Issy van Randwick’s Serena and Nicholas Rowe’s Charles, blithe and commanding in their narrowness. Rosy and Ross, who bring the pairs together, are a mix of comic punchbags and characters. Though it’s hard to do other than laugh when Ross (Richard Webb, repugnantly aggressive when annoyed, is painfully skewered), while Sarah Hadland presents Rosy for her share of ridicule.
Laughter regaled the play on its opening night, and it will be interesting to see how much that recurs with audiences through the run. As an actor, playwright Simon Paisley Day knows how to stir the pot, and pour in comic lines or situations.
Yet the play moves between comic scenes without gathering momentum. Perhaps there’s little to be had with these members of smugurbia.
Briony: Tamzin Outhwaite.
Keith: Barnaby Kay.
Serena: Issy van Randwick.
Charles: Nicholas Rowe.
Ross: Robert Webb.
Rosy: Sarah Hadland.
Tabby: Bel Powley.
Mr Morgan: Ifan Huw Dafydd.
Director: Edward Hall.
Designer: Jonathan Fensom.
Lighting: Rick Fisher.
Sound: Matt McKenzie.
Composer: Simon Slater.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Natalie Ibu.