The Sex Party by Terry Johnson. The Menier Chocolate Factory, Southwark Street, London SE1 to 7 January 2023. 2** William Russell.

A new Terry Johnson play should have been an occasion worth marking the re-opening of the Menier but in th event it turned out to be dismal, spasmodic affair about a sex party held by Alex (Jason Merells) in his Islington house. The guests included Alex (John Hopkins),an old friend, and his wife Gilly (Lisa Dwan) attending one for the first time – what Alex did not realise was once upon a time Gilly and Alex had been at university together and he still harboured longings. The other guests proved dreary beyond believe and included the American actor and Oscar winner Timothy Hutton as Jeff, a man who liked to call a spade a spade and had a rather old fashioned swinger’s pony tail and a Russian trophy wife (Amanda Ryan). The sex tookplace off stage. The action, all talk, in Alex’s desirable kitchen, and in the series of short scenes issues were discussed – everything from why dogs love their owners (don’t ask) to where the guests came from (Alex had an on line site). Things get heated when Lucy (Pooya Mohseni), a woman Alex had met abroad, clad in a gold evening dress and stiletto heels to teeter on. They all looked and came to the right decision. Lucy was a transexual. That led to discussions about gender, about prepositions, about J K Rowling and pretty well everything you would have expected until Lucy got fed up and nearly everyone retired to the living room to have sex. Somewhere in there may exist a topical tale, but in spite of an able cast – Will Barton as Tim, an accident prone idiot, Kelly Price as his girl friend Camilla, who had woke beliefs, and Molly Osborne as Hetty, the nice girl who likes sex and would like to be Alex’s love – one ends up feeling sorry not for the characters but the actors stuck playing those roles over Christmas. Nobody actually takes their clothes off although Gilly has a couple of tarty dresses to sport and Jake unbuttons his shirt. Oddly host Alex never seems to leave the kitchen. Just what made Timothy Hutton choose this as the play in which to make his stage debut here is one of life’s mysteries. To sum up, his is a party to make, as reporters from the News of the World used to do, make an excuse and leave, a two star affair in a four star set (Tim Shortall).

Gilly: Lisa Dwan.

Alex: Jason Merrels.

Jake: John Hopkins.

Hetty: Molly Osborne.

Jeff: Timothy Hutton.

Magdalena: Amanda Ryan.

Tim: Will Barton.

Camilla: keppy Price.

Lucy: Pooya Mohseni.

Director: Terry Johnson.

Set & Costume Designer: Tim Shortall.

Lighting Designer: Ben Ormerod.

Sound Designer: John Leonard.

Dialect Coach: Penny Dyer.

Associate Director: George Rankcom.

Production Photographs: Alastair Muir.

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