DramaSouth West

Sex With A Stranger – The Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol

Writer: Stefan Golaszewski

Director: Alexandra Moxon

Reviewer: Kris Hallett

Relationships eh? They start with a drunk snog and fumble in the park, moving on to dinners at a local Italian discussing Sloppy Giuseppes, Gotye’s Someone That I Used to Know on the airwaves, making tentative discoveries about what you have in common and, before you know it, Mad Men box sets and arguments about where to put the bookshelves.

Stefan Golaszewski deceptively dark relationship drama Sex With A Stranger floats back and forth its time frames. It starts a hook up comedy, the ritual awaiting any new couple destined to meet in a London club of a late running night bus, oyster card dramas, how far away from Homebase her place is. Golaszewski is a successful television writer, Him and Her being one of the finest British sitcoms of the past decade, and that minimal style is very much the DNA of this as well. Yet it feels like a TV pitch that has been skewed into a stage play. Its scenes jump cut, some lasting little more than seconds. On camera you can instantly dissolve back and forth through time, on stage it’s fusty, at least in this particular staging.

This is not the only thing that director Alexandra Moxon hasn’t quite got under control. She has caught the shy, awkward machinations of a hook up; the smiles in place of quips, the dead laugh that betrays not being in on the joke, two characters being out of their usual routine and the sense of awkwardness this brings about as a result. Yet it lacks chemistry. It is difficult to believe in the hook up that is occurring between Alice Kerrigan’s Grace and Euan Shanahan’s Adam. They are too different to connect on a spiritual aspect and too lacking in lust to convince that these two would soon be rutting the night away. Alcohol has made fools of us all but these two would have said goodbye long before they got back to the flat here. The need for connection from these two that might have brought them together in this little téte-a-téte of flesh isn’t explored. Kerrigan gives a strong performance but she comes across as little more than a fantasy, the women who offers headless bacchanalia instead of stability and petty little squabbles turned vicious. Strangers are always mysterious to us but in drama we want to see characters revealed, not remain unknowable.

The woman stuck at home is Laura Waldren’s Ruth. In the best staged scene of the night, a shirt is removed in lust and plucked by her to be ironed – a moment, that calls back to Look Back In Anger, of the dutiful woman looking after her ungrateful man. Relationships are ultimately defined by the little moments of kindness, her ironing the shirt that later on will be pawed by another feels the ultimate act of betrayal. It’s the one moment of the night that becomes involving rather than mere diversion.

Moxon doesn’t help herself by trying to incorporate movement sections into transitions that comes off as actors mimicking dancers. Neither sharp nor defined enough, it clangs awkwardly against the text. Last year in the directors cuts season Cameron Carver blended movement and text together to dizzying effect in Never Swim Alone.  Moxon’s effort, which feels influenced by this, is not supported by the source material and feels, much like the worst kind of one night stand, flat and flaccid as a result.

Runs until 6 May 2017 | Image: Hide the Shark

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score

Lacks chemistry

The Reviews Hub - South West

The Southwest team is under the editorship of Holly Spanner. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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