A four-hander with no interval would normally be an anathema to me, but it’s almost perfect for a solo visit to a Thursday matinee, when intervals usually involve much studied perusing of the programme and no alcohol. Described in the promotional material as “deliciously offensive” and featuring Ed Stoppard (son of Tom & Miriam) and British supermodel Agyness Deyn making her stage debut, this one act play, first staged in Quebec in 2006, is by French-Canadian playwright Francois Archambault with English translation by fellow Canadian Bobby Theodore.
The majority of the action takes place at a dinner party to which seemingly über-successful thirty-something couple Peter and Mary have invited their recently divorced slacker of a friend Mark with the express desire of severing all ties with him (they sound like a delightful pair don’t they?). Mark turns up with his latest squeeze, 21 year old total babe Paula, no prizes for guessing who takes this role, and the evening goes from bad to worse.
Peter and Mary are falling apart. They are in the process of adopting a Chinese girl in an attempt to shore up their relationship, despite the fact that they already have a baby that cries constantly and is left upstairs in the keep of a baby monitor. Ed Stoppard’s Peter is very much a sexier cuter Woody Allen, all angst filled neuroses, convinced he’s hopeless at sex but would welcome more practice to get better. Melanie Gray as the emotionally and sexually unfulfilled Mary can hardly bear to look at Peter and is desperate for excitement. Both have supposedly given up drinking and smoking, each blaming the other for the abandonment of these vices, but are equally up for a threesome at the drop of a hat. John Schwab, as the straightforward Mark is a testosterone filled good timer, bearing a striking resemblance to a young James Hetfield from Metallica. Agyness Deyn as Paula has the least to do but is convincing, confident and gets two of the biggest laughs of the evening.
There are other laughs galore as hitherto untold secrets get shared and the dubious morals that we may forgive in those closest to us get a full and frank airing. There are some great comments on the effect the current financial crisis is having on the well-off, Peter can now relate to poor people as one of their friends has just lost a house. There is many a sharp intake of breath at Archambault’s daring and there are some truly shocking revelations that make the Blisses in Coward's Hay Fever across town seem like the Von Trapps. It may not be the best play to take either a new parent or a pregnant woman to. The last three scenes, set a few days after the main event are not as successful and I found the ending a bit of a letdown but the previous 80 minutes had been one of the funniest roller coaster rides I’ve had in the theatre for a long time.
All the performances were spot on, with Ed Stoppard & Melanie Gray perfect as a couple on the edge, John Schwab great as the uncomplicated soon to be ex-friend and Agyness Deyn making an assured debut.