NEW-GENERATION GUEST REVIEWER LUKE JONES UNIMPRESSED BY MARBER REVIVAL
There were a lot of jokes about strippers’ arseholes.
Almost entirely for the joy of saying ‘strippers’ arseholes’. Was that funny in 1997? Half the audience seemed to remember why. But, like so much of this play, 2015 eyes were left dry and weary. Who speaks to people on chat rooms anymore, who finds a Newton’s cradle novel and full of metaphor? Patrick Marber’s play does. It is absorbed, dated and unaware, throwing out some nice threads but only stitching a few together in the final scene.
Four people, connected by a mix of the most contrived and fun circumstances (car accident and chat room misunderstanding, photo shoot and photo exhibition) end up shagging in almost every combination. Ill-feelings ensue and partners are swapped, worried over and returned with no delay. A prude would take against this play for the smut, but frankly in this day and age any reasonable citizen would, purely for the unoriginality. At points it was just the exorcising of Marber’s wankmares… Rufus Sewell’s character launching into a debate with a stripper about the morals of strip clubs whilst she writhes around on a bed in front of him, twenties-a-plenties stuffed in her garter.
And? We’ve done that. Who cares? We’ve landed on the moon, we’re past CDs, we know stripclubs aren’t as interesting as 1997 thought they were. But despite this, and the roll-of-the-dice way each scene threw up a change of heart for one of the characters’ lovelife, it did have laughs. Aside from old men wheezing at “c***s” and “whores”, there were flashes of quips which eased along quite an indulgent plot.
Nancy Carroll, essentially the most adult (age-wise) of the foursome, offered a more considered character, nicely rounding Anna off as almost believable. This despite Rufus Sewell’s childish gurns, the talented Oliver Chris’ constant exasperations and the bland Rachel Redford’s best efforts. There was no point of connection with these people, they were ludicrous.
In direction (by David Leveaux) the play was slick, with nicely punctuated scenes. The set assisted this, but did little more; a bare brick, crisply lit grey space with wheely furniture and a strip block of light which teased its way across the stage whenever it could.
The play worked as a series of conversations, but unoriginal ones barely linked. Glib ponderings on time, writing (oh god, writing) and love were trotted out one by one, but few stuck around for a proper grilling. The biggest, heartiest, wheeziest laugh of the night, went to someone hurling the insult “you – writer!”. Case closed.