Four Play***+ (Theatre 503)

Posted: February 20, 2016 in Theatre

Four PlayThis review was originally written for The Reviews Hub: http://www.thereviewshub.com

To be faithful or not to be faithful? This is the question that has troubled characters created by many writers over the years. Does monogamy come naturally to the human race? Is it possible to maintain a loving relationship while, at the same time, having dalliances with others? Jake Brunger’s new one-act comedy takes a very modern look at these age old dilemmas. Pete is a high-flyer with an accountancy firm, wearing designer clothes and enjoying a good lifestyle with his partner of seven-and-a-half years, Rafe. The couple talk of adopting children and getting a dog and they plan a wedding at which the music will by Enya (definitely not Kylie). However, they are bored with monogamy and wonder what it would be like to have the excitement of just one fling. With this in mind, they proposition the handsome, gym-toned Michael to indulge each of them in turn, notwithstanding the fact that Michael is himself in a relationship with Andrew. The opening exchanges produce a sparkling comedy of embarrassment as Cai Brigden’s nervous and fussy Rafe skirts around delicate issues with Michael, while Pete (Michael Gilbert) sits as a silent, and apparently reluctant onlooker. However, it emerges that Pete is the driving force behind setting up the arrangement. Michael agrees to go along with the idea and what follows serves as a warning to be careful what we wish for. In later scenes, Brunger changes emphasis, toning down the comedy and bringing the secondary couple to the fore. Michael James’ wounded Andrew becomes the play’s beating heart, giving it emotional depth when it risks descent into shallow farce. Rating himself a six on the good looks scale that makes his partner a ten, he is touchingly self- deprecating and resilient in refusing to be left on the sidelines by the errant threesome. The vulnerability of the seemingly casual and confident Michael is brought out beautifully by Peter Hannah, cringing with feelings of disgust at where his carnal instincts lead him. The bond between Michael and Andrew is always believable and Brunger makes us think that this couple have reached a point where they can make the compromises necessary for them to stay together. The two couples mirror each other with Rafe, like Andrew, seeking domestic bliss and Pete, like Michael, being torn, scared by the thought of monogamy and tempted to roam. The final outcome is staged very effectively in Jonathan O’Boyle’s sharp production. Cecilia Carey’s minimalist design with a backdrop suggesting a chic cocktail bar emphasises that the play and its characters are outwardly modern, even though there is little new in the themes. That said, Brunger’s take on the crucial conundrum of human relationships proves to be lively and refreshing.

Performance date: 19 February 2016

Photo: Richard Lakos

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