Writer: Andy Moseley
Director: Andy Moseley
Reviewer: Fran Beaton
When all other roads fail, what’s the one way to save your marriage? Sex with other people, of course. Or rather this is what Jennifer (Joanna Pope) and James (David Scott-Lucas) believe in Andy Moseley’s new play Casual Encounters. However, when they let some fellow swingers into their home, the outcome is more terrifying than titillating.
The preface of this piece is witty but the momentum is not sustained. The opening ten minutes of the play, a conversation between Jennifer and James about the problems in their marriage and how this agreed infidelity will help them, raises laughter from the audience in its awkward, classically middle class behaviour – Jennifer is more worried about what to offer her guests to eat and drink than them seeing her naked. However, this is short lived. When would-be swingers Annette and Peter appear (Catherine Houston Eyers and Sean Meyer), the piece becomes rather more politicised but with no true grit behind it. Annette goes on a sort of privilege bashing rant about how Jennifer and James are too smug to know their neighbours and how little they would want their sexual exploits becoming a topic at the deli counter at Waitrose – well, who would? This is incongruous with the whimsical nature of the opening scene. If Moseley is trying to write a left-wing piece, criticising the head-in-the-sand nature of the upper middle class, then by all means it would be worthwhile (if a bit tedious and rehashed). However, as it is, he merely flirts with politics, farce, and a sort of Alan Ayckbourn style couples’ drama. If he were to commit to one, and it is certainly the farce element that is his most successful, the piece would be much more effective.
Fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe, the cast of five carry this piece along at quite a rate. It is Scott-Lucas’ performance which stands out; he embraces the farce and inhabits the comedy well. It is slightly awkward to watch Houston Eyers as she seems dreadfully uncomfortable and wooden in the rôle, particularly when wielding weaponry and issuing threats. This could be resolved if she simply relaxed into it. The cameo by Lucia Coward as the policewoman at the very end certainly provides a breath of fresh air but it is implausible that a policewoman would mock the victims of a crime quite to the extent she does.
The piece has one or two glaring errors. This is a shame as it would be only too easy to rectify this. The policewoman comments on something she sees in the kitchen, despite having only been in the living room so far. How the policewoman knows where to find Jennifer and James in the first place is a mystery. Were Jennifer and James’ predicament to look a bit more plausible, they really do need to be handcuffed to a more robust table. As it is, the audience cannot understand their reluctance simply to stand up, lifting the flimsy table with them, and reach the phone to call for help.
Casual Encounters is a clever concept with some witty moments and good performances. It requires tweaking in order for it to glide through its 50 minutes with more energy and conviction. Currently, it appears to be suffering a bit of an identity crisis.
Runs until 20 September |PhotoJon Constant