THE SHAGAROUND: Maggie Nevill Soho Theatre

Soho Theatre, London. To 18 August 2001 BO 020 7470 0100

Runs: 2 hours

Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 May 2001 at Southampton Nuffield.

Ironic new girlpower comedy that finally takes on a serious note.

Matt’s dumped girlfriend G (Cathy Tyson in Southampton, Diane Parrish at the Soho) and in revenge G plus four mates lock him in a cubicle of the women’s lavs on New Year’s Eve. Tied in by multiplying pairs of tights (the pub’s female clientele lend their legwear in solidarity) Matt tries to bargain, cajole, insult and finally trick his way out of porcelain solitude as the women rage, laugh, mock at male ways. Except for Sal, a psychological near prisoner of the loos who can’t face her ex-boyfriend out in the pub snogging his new fancy.Act One follows in this daughter of Willy Russell or John Godber way, though there are signs of the new writer – over-explicit statement, lines self-consciously engineered into place, plus an occasional tendency to leave some characters with too little to do.

But you have to like a writer who can keep you interested for a longish scene when the only character around is a bloke hidden in a cubicle talking on his mobile ‘phone. And provide such distinct, believable characters. Act two takes us into new territory. Beth (Toyah Willcox) is a nurse whose professionalism releases Matt when he shrieks out in pain. Except, wouldn’t you know, he was faking it. And when Sal is injured it’s Beth, her big sister, who can’t comprehend how lifelong sisterly love means less than some bearded bloke’s random canoodlings.

With Sal unconscious, Matt (Matthew Cullum) is brought in to play his final faking, pretending to be the ex she pines for. The lights, and possibly Sal, die out on a dream of comfort in love. And love’s the ironic bitch that means a play with five feisty females is titled after its only male character. The cast is splendid, and Patrick Sandford’s production plays skilful variations of pace and tone.

2001-07-25 17:41:09

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